§ LORD AVEBURY
rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they had taken any steps to carry out the suggestion made by the Prime Minister in a speech on December 22nd, 1905, that as "the policy of huge armaments feeds the belief that force is the best, if not the only solution of international differences…it becomes one of the highest tasks of the statesman to adjust armaments to the new and happier conditions"; and, if so, whether there were any Papers which could be laid on the Table of the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on the 22nd of last December the Prime Minister made an important speech in which he said—I hold that the growth of armaments is a great danger to the peace of the world. The policy of huge armaments feeds the belief that force is the best—if not the only—solution of international differences. It is a policy which tends to inflame old sores and to create new sores, and I submit to you that as the principle of peaceful arbitration gains ground, it becomes one of the highest tasks of statesmen to adjust armaments to the new and happier conditions. What nobler rôle could this country have than at the fitting moment to place itself at the head of a League of Peace, through whose instrumentality this great work could be effected!1518 The Prime Minister does not stand alone I in his opinions. In one of his last I speeches the late Lord Salisbury said—Remember this—that the federation of Europe is the embryo of the only possible; structure of Europe which can save civilisation from the desolating effects of a disaster of war. You notice that on all sides the instruments of destruction, the piling up of arms, are j becoming larger and larger. The powers of I concentration are becoming greater, and instruments of death more active, and more numerous, and are improved with every year; and each nation is bound for its own safety's sake to take part in this competition. The one hope that we have to prevent this competition from ending in a terrible effort of mutual destruction which would be fatal to Christian civilisation—the only hope we have, is, that the Powers may gradually be brought together I to act together in a friendly spirit on all questions of difference which may arise, and till at last they shall be wedded in some international constitution which shall give to the world, as a result of their great strength, a long spell of unfettered and prosperous trade and continued peace.Sir Spenser Walpole in his History of England, says of Lord Beaconsfield that he—Saw more clearly than almost any other leading statesman that the strength of the country lay, not in increased armaments, but in its growing resources; and that, if these resources were squandered in time of peace, they will not be available in war. He declared, in a passage which ought to be inscribed in letters of gold, that the power to raise the income-tax in an emergency was a far more formidable weapon than any which increased fleets or armies could supply.Unfortunately, we have now an income-tax of a shilling in the pound in a time of peace! In the last ten years we have increased our national expenditure by about £70,000,000, and our local expenditure by about the same amount, making a total increase of £130,000,000. Our population has increased 10 per cent., our indebtedness has increased 21 per cent., and our national expenditure has increased 30 per cent. Moreover, as regards local finance during the last five years, while our population has increased 5 per cent.; our local loans have increased 34 per cent, and our local expenditure 30 per cent. Of course I only refer to the local figures just to show that the increase in our national expenditure is not counterbalanced by any diminution, but, on the contrary, is aggravated by an enormous increase in our local expenditure.
Evidently, therefore, the position is most serious, and the matter urgent. 1519 Looking to the future, while I doubt not that as regards our civil and local expenditure much economy might be exercised, on the other hand there will be unavoid able increases, and I am not sanguine enough to hope for any serious diminution. The only important decrease which seems possible would be in naval and military expenditure. Ten years ago our naval and military expenditure was £35,600,000. Last year, without including extra receipts and other items which would largely increase the real amount, it was £66,270,000, showing an increase of no less than £30,700,000. My Lords, in making this enormous increase we have surely incurred a great moral responsibility. What should we have said it France or Germany had increased their armaments to the same extent? I rejoice, therefore, that the House of Commons has just passed a very strong Resolution, with which I cordially concur, in favour of a great reduction.
It is evident that the force which each nation requires depends greatly on that of other countries. But until recently we could not suggest any reduction with effect, because it was impossible for us to diminish our armaments. The case is now, however, very different. Of late years the increase in our armaments has been far greater than in those of other European countries, as for instance of France or Germany. Lord Beaconsfield spoke of our bloated armaments. I do not know what terms, even in his rich vocabulary, he would find graphic and strong enough to describe them now. Moreover, they are not only a gigantic expense, but a danger to peace, and indefinitely increase the risk of war. It is often said that this enormous rise has been forced on us by the increases in the armaments of foreign Powers. Those who lie under this impression have evidently not looked into the facts. In the last ten years Italy has increased her naval and military expenditure by £1,500,000; France by £6,000,000; Germany by £8,700,000. Our increase during the same period has been over £30,000,000—something like double that of France and Germany put together!
In one of his most interesting speeches Mr. Balfour attempted to show, and I think did show, that any invasion of this country was hopeless. I do not, however, base my argument on this. 1520 There can be no doubt that European nations, including ourselves, are all greatly overburdened with taxation. The statesmen of Europe do not seem to realise how closely the interests of different countries are bound together. This is especially true in our case. We have immense investments all over the world. Our merchants are in all lands: we have built the railways almost all over Europe, and indeed in almost ail countries, with of course some exceptions, of which the United States is the most important. The Russo-Japanese war has, indirectly, cost; us millions. The late Lord Derby once said that the greatest of British interests is peace. And so it is, not merely that we should be ourselves at peace with other countries, but that they should be at peace one with another. In fact, the interests of nations are so interwoven, we are bound together by such strong, if sometimes invisible threads, that if one suffers all suffer; if one flourishes, it is good for the rest.
From another point of view, however, the interest of other countries is even greater than ours. The pressure of taxation, heavy in this country, is even more serious and severe in others. The time seems very suitable for some such action. Russia requires rest to recover from the ruinous losses of the last war. She has to choose between economy and bankruptcy. Moreover, has not the Emperor summoned the Hague Conference? France is friendly; she knows that we are her best customer; we take one-third of all her exports, and it is most important for her that we should be prosperous and able to purchase her wine and her silks. Italy, certainly, is not for war; and Austria to her honour, has long been an influence making for peace. As to Germany, I can speak for all the great commercial cities. They know, as we do, that the main interests of Germany are the same as ours; that peace is most important for each of us; and that war, however it might end, would be disastrous to both. Moreover, the unrest in Europe, the spread of socialism, the ominous rise of anarchism, is a warning to the Governments and governing classes that the condition of the working classes in Europe is becoming intolerable, and that if revolution is to be avoided some steps must be 1521 taken to increase wages, reduce the hours of labour, and lower the prices of the necessaries of life.
These objects can only be effected in one way, by reducing the military and naval expenditure. Both they and we have to consider, not merely the direct, but the indirect, effect of these enormous armaments. The anxiety and uncertainty created necessarily tend to paralyse industry and drive manufactures into more peaceful regions. The late Mr. E. Atkinson, the eminent American economist, said—The burden of national taxation and militarism in the competing countries of Europe, all of which must come out of the annual product, is so much greater that, by comparison, the United States can make a net profit of about five per cent, on the entire annual product before the cost of militarism and the heavy taxes of the European competitors have been defrayed. Such is the burden of militarism which must be removed before there can be any competition on even terms between European manufacturers and those of the United States in supplying other continents and in sharing in the great commerce of the world.Moreover, since he wrote, the burden of militarism has become much more onerous. Let me ask your Lordships to consider the relative positions and policies of America and Europe. I do not say that America is employing her time and manhood to the best advantage. Her fiscal system is devised to check the use and cultivation of her millions—not of paltry acres, but of square miles of virgin soil, in order to encourage the development of manufactures which she could purchase more economically from us; she endeavours to divert her people from the natural and healthy life of the country, and concentrate them in great cities. These mistakes, no doubt, are retarding—they cannot prevent—her progress.
But what are we doing in Europe? We have, no doubt, some great advantages. Europe ought to make hay while the sun shines. We have no reserves of virgin soil. Our coal will not, indeed, be exhausted just yet, but we have to go deeper and deeper for it, so that it becomes more, and more expensive; our tin is practicallv exhausted, our copper approaching an end, even our iron ores are not inexhaustible. Under these circumstances we ought to be laying up for the future. So far from 1522 this, Europe is a great military camp, always under arms; we have no peace, only an armistice; eternal war with; unlimited expenditure, only, happily, I without bloodshed. But the result is that instead of accumulating capital for our children, we are piling up debt; instead of bequeathing them an income, we are leaving them overwhelming responsibilities.
Look at the contrast between Europe and America. The United States have a population of 90,000,000. That of Europe is about 350,000,000, nearly four times as great. The area is about the same, but the expenditure of Europe on armaments is over £250,000,000 sterling, that of the United States is £40,000,000, and the number of men under arms is 4,000,000 against 100,000 in the United States, or forty times as great. It is obvious, therefore, that our European manufacturers are heavily handicapped as against those of the United States, and, unless something is done, will be so more and more. Our expenditure on the Army, which ten years ago was under £18,000,000, is now over £29,000,000, showing an increase of over £11,000,000, or more than half as much again. Surely we might here make a great reduction.
As regards the Navy, Mr. Lefevre, in a very interesting article in the Contemporary Review for February, gives the effective strength of our Navy as in round numbers, 1,050,000 tons, that of France being 398,000, and of Germany 286,000, so that our strength is, in round numbers, 370,000 tons more than that of France and Germany combined. The Times also recently published (April 23rd) a most interesting article on the German Navy. The result they came to was that after making all reasonable allowances —The overwhelming superiority of British Naval strength to that of Germany remains incontestable.Now all three nations are going to an enormous expense, and if our respective programmes are carried out the results will be:—Great Britain, 1,928,000 tons; France, 779,000; and Germany 744,000; giving us a surplus of 400,000 tons. We shall have added 880,000 tons and they will have added 840,000, and our respective positions will be almost the same as they are now. What portentous, I might almost say what wicked, waste! Russia, I understand, is about to spend 1523 £50,000,000 on her Navy. If she joined in some arrangement she might save half of the outlay; and how much better this would be for her. Surely we might agree on reductions which would leave our relative strength unaffected, and save all three countries many millions of money, besides an immense annual diminution of expense. Moreover, as the late Lord Salisbury wisely pointed out, these gigantic armaments greatly increase the risk of war. This seems rather a matter for amicable arrangement between the four countries than for The Hague Conference.
I have dealt hitherto with the question from a material and business point of view. But it has another and higher aspect. The present position of Europe is a disgrace to us, not only as men of common sense, but as professing Christians. If the suggestions thrown out by the Prime Minister are accepted, it would be an enormous boon to the people of Europe; it would, I believe, save the Continent from drifting into revolution and misery. To us in England, if perhaps to a slightly less extent, it would also have most beneficial consequences. It would diminish the burden of taxation, it would lighten the hours of labour, it would raise wages, and lower the price of necessaries. Of course, it is possible that our overtures might be rejected. But, even if they are, we shall feel that we have done our best. We shall have held out the olive branch; it will be a failure, but an honourable, even glorious, failure. I do not, however, entertain such a fear. I have too much confidence in the common sense and conscience of Europe. And if we succeed, it will be one of those cases in which peace has its victories as well as war, and we shall confer an incalculable boon, not only on our own people, but on the whole world.
THE LORD BISHOP OF RIPON
My Lords, I think no apology is due on my part for venturing to intervene on such a subject as this. The noble Lord who brought it forward dwelt, as he had a right to do, upon the grave commercial and financial burdens which are closely associated with the armaments of Europe, and he reminded us that these burdens pressed heavily on all industries and produced that apprehension and mutual 1524 suspicion which I think will be admitted on all sides to be one of the great causes for the apparent failure, as it were, of commercial success. For nothing, I understand, is so sensitive as capital, and nothing is so likely to effect the sensitiveness of capital as the existence of mutual suspicions and alarms.
But I venture to enter on this question from a different standpoint, for I cannot pretend to possess what the noble Lord possesses in such a high degree, a deep and large acquaintance with the financial and fiscal aspects of the question. I always find myself on this question in the position of not being able to agree with the extremists on either side. It so happens that on all questions; where human beings feel strongly there will be those who are inclined to look Duly from one standpoint, and therefore to exaggerate the value of the particular standpoint which they adopt. There are those who clamour at all times for what is called "Peace at any price." I venture to say that I cannot identify myself with those. It seems to me that whatever view one takes of history or of existing conditions no man can look back or look around without seeing that it is quite conceivable that cases may arise in which war may be necessary.
Facts are stern things, and it becomes men who possess common sense to face facts; but the facts, stern and strong as they are, are allied with something else, and that is the recognition that there does often come a time in the history of nations when the nation has to choose the lesser of two evils, and when all brave men accept war as the lesser of two evils. Not one of us will do other than endorse that view when we recall the struggles of Holland in the days of Spanish tyranny. There are many who will say that the condition also applies to the sanguinary struggle between the Northern and Southern States of America; and who can doubt but that England did good service to the civilised world when she withstood the Napoleonic tyranny?
There are events in the history of the world when the soldier who has stood in the front of the battle field has not merely been a patriot but a citizen of the world and a protector of on-coming civilisation. Just as I recognise that there may be circumstances in which 1525 war is necessary, so I readily recognise that it is the bounden duty of all upon whom national responsibility devolves to protect the interests of the nation committed to their care and to have due regard to the sufficiency of armaments. It would be unwise, nay, would it not be almost criminal, to forget these natural find necessary considerations which are needful to make protection sufficient? Therefore I for one would venture to say all honour to that patriot soldier who goes about among his fellow countrymen and says, "It is indispensable, if you are to maintain your freedom and your present position, that you should be adequately and efficiently armed."
But, while I make these admissions, I would also say that these two positions do not cover the whole question. It may be true that war is sometimes necessary, and it may be the duty of Governments to take care that the armaments are sufficient; but there is another aspect wider than that of merely national interest, and it is the aspect of the duty which a nation owes to the world at large and the duty which every civilised and intelligent Government owes to the progress and advance of civilisation. Life is not merely made up of stern facts; and while we are obliged, from the standpoint of stern facts and common sense, to admit the great possibilities of risk and peril, that is no reason why we should fall into what I may call the prosaic error of forgetting that we are gifted with the power of foresight and have imposed upon us the duty of preparation for the great future which we hope, through our instrumentality, may be more pleasant than the period in which our lot is cast.
There is such a thing as an ideal aspect of the world, and it is to the ideal that our attention should be constantly directed. The statesman no less than the artist needs to be sustained by ideal considerations. If we think of the ideal, may we not picture to ourselves an age when those armaments will no longer be necessary, and when, instead of withdrawing one out of every five of the real breadwinners to stand as an armed soldier and therefore rendering him a non-producer from an economic point of view, the standing armies and navies should be reduced to a kind of minimum which would represent only the necessary police, 1526 as it were, of the world? The industries of the world would then flourish, its productive power would then increase, and in every hamlet, as in every land, there would be a sense of security, peace, and happiness.
It is an ideal picture. I venture to say there are three ways in which we may treat an ideal. We may treat it with the enthusiasm of those who forget facts and begin to live as if the ideal age had come. On the other hand, are they any wiser who disdain the ideal altogether and live simply in the presence of hard facts? Surely the true way of dealing with an ideal is to say that, as God has given to every man a place in the world where his character is formed by experience and the stern discipline of facts, so also is man endowed with the means of conceiving an ideal towards which he can work. There is in every artist's mind the picture which never was painted and never will be painted. So there ought to be in the mind and imagination of the statesman an ideal picture which, perchance, may never be painted in his time, but which, nevertheless, will form the standard towards which he desires to approximate, and towards the realisation of which he desires to lead the people entrusted to his care. Thus I say that the ideal stands for much, and in this case it is a thing towards which approach has been made.
Public opinion has pronounced over and over again in favour of the settlement of national disputes by arbitration, by the mediation of a friendly nation, or by the inclusion in treaties of clauses which afford the opportunity of consideration when questions of friction and dispute arise. Almost every legislature in Europe has passed a resolution in favour of something of the kind. Not only in England in 1873, but in Italy, in Sweden, in the United States of America, in Holland, and in Belgium within the two or three short years between 1873 and 1875 resolutions were passed in favour of this, and later other nations followed suit. Though wars were numerous in the last century, yet it remains true that a great many have been averted by arbitration. Between 1820 and 1830 there were only three cases in which disputes were settled by arbitration; but I think I am right in saying that between 1880 and 1527 1890 there were as many as twenty-one. The movement has been accepted and the principle applied to such cases as the Duchy of Luxembourg, the Alabama claims, Crete, the Alaska boundary, and, recently there was the Algeciras Conference. The instinct which found expression in the Resolutions of the Legislature has found confirmation in the practical action of the civilised nations of the world, so that the ideal to which I have referred is a thing towards which men with patient steps are slowly advancing.
What is more remarkable still is the fact that clauses in treaties arranging for arbitration in cases of dispute have shown the determination of nations to provide, if possible, against anything like a hostile outbreak. Wars often arise from the sensitiveness of national honour, but, if a nation has committed itself beforehand to an arbitration clause in a treaty, then it stands consonant with its honour that it shall first consider, and it is not as it were urged on to war by a sense of honour, but honour stands in the way of war, and to have brought honour on the side of peace is no small achievement. It does more. It gives that invaluable factor in all questions of dispute—time for consideration, during which those extravagant passions may cool down which in themselves are a. source of peril to international peace.
In the attitude we are taking up we stand hand in hand with men of wise judgment and wide experience. The noble Lord who initiated this discussion quoted what the late Lord Salisbury said, and it is true that he pointed out to those whom he addressed at Hastings in 1892 that just as the system of settling quarrels by duels had been put an end to, so it would be the duty of nations to see that, by methods of international understanding, international wars were put an end to. In the same sense the present Prime Minister has spoken. And in so speaking those statesmen ranged themselves alongside the philosophers of the world. In other words, we have on our side philosophers who have reflected deeply on the matter, statesmen who have had practical experience, and the legislatures of the world who have pronounced in favour of arbitration.
If it is true that there has been an approximation to the realisation of the 1528 ideal, upon whom does the responsibility rest to carry forward the movement? I venture to say, without any hesitation, that the responsibility falls with its heaviest weight upon those great nationalities which are most deeply imbued with the ideas of the highest civilisation. The world is made up of nations in various stages of growth. To some, ideals of this sort would be quite impossible, but when we remember those nations to which the noble Lord who introduced this subject alluded, when we remember the United States of America, when we remember Germany, when we remember France, when we think of our own country—do we not realise that every one of these countries has been inter-penetrated with what I may call the highest and noblest ideas of civilisation? Are not these the nations, then, to lead the way? If they have led the way in the civilisation of the world is it not for them to lead the way also towards the realisation of that age of peace by inaugurating, if it be possible, some League of Peace?
In 1902 an American professor had an interview with a German historian, and the subject of discussion was the importance of a friendly understanding between Germany, America, and England, and as the American professor was leaving the presence of the old historian he said to him—Preach that doctrine far and near whenever and wherever occasion allows.That is the sentiment I should like to hear from all those upon whom the responsibility of government rests. Every civilised nation should endeavour, as far as possible, to preach the doctrine of a friendly understanding with the other nations of the world. In this way we shall be able to realise in its noblest sense the ideal of which I have spoken It may not be that the present generation shall see the dawn of the golden age of perpetual peace, but we shall see at least men drawing nearer one to another, prejudices disappearing, and such a consciousness of peace and security falling upon the minds of the people that, although war may not be altogether abolished, men may sit down by their vines and their fig-trees with the certainty of enjoying a prolonged peace.
§ LORD SANDERSON
My Lords, before the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs replies to the Question addressed to him, I think it may not be inconvenient to him that I should say something of the more recent diplomatic history which has come under my own experience. It will relieve him of a somewhat unpleasant task, because it is not very encouraging. In 1898, the Emperor of Russia addressed a Circular to all the Powers proposing a Conference for the purpose of considering means of securing peace and of reducing or limiting armaments. All the Governments, I believe, replied in a sympathetic manner, but during the few months which elapsed before the meeting of the Conference several of them, including the Russian Government itself, made a not inconsiderable increase in their already large armaments. Whether they did that in order to have something to reduce upon I do not know, but reduction did not follow.
The Conference met and appointed three Commissions, one of which was to examine the methods of limiting or reducing armaments. A number of proposals were made to that Commission; they were carefully examined, but in the end the Conference was unable to adopt any of them. It was found impossible to devise a formula which should be free from ambiguity and apply fairly to all Powers alike, and it was found equally impossible to devise means of ensuring the observance of any agreement without an amount of control and interference to which few, if any, of the Powers were inclined to submit. The Conference, therefore, was compelled to content itself with recommending the subject to the consideration of the Governments concerned as one of great importance to the moral and material welfare of the human race.
I am not aware that the consideration which the Governments were able to give to it have led to any practical results. I think if you look at these large armaments you will find that they are not so much the consequence of any conscious aggressive intentions as of a general feeling of insecurity, of an impression that Europe is in a state of what is scientifically called unstable equilibrium, and of a determination to be prepared for all risks. The German 1530 military delegate at the Conference summed up the matter by saying that each country had created its own system of national defence in accordance with its history and traditions and its geographical situation, and that it would be very difficult to substitute an international agreement for these purely national institutions. It seems to me that this impression of insecurity cannot be removed merely by diplomatic assurances.
Something has been done by The Hague Conference, because it facilitated the means of referring international differences to mediation and arbitration. It is only seven years since that Conference terminated, and seven years is a very short period in the history of nations; but already those methods have been used on more than one important occasion and with signal success. I do not myself see how any further step in advance can be taken without a strong national movement in some, at least, of the more important military countries towards a reduction of armaments and practical proofs of peaceful intentions, and some evidence of the earnestness and the permanence of that feeling. Whether the time is yet ripe for that it is difficult to say. I feel that we may confidently leave the matter in the hands of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whose calm, firm, unobtrusive policy has already rendered such important services to the cause of European peace.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Lord FITZMAURICE)
My Lords, my noble friend opposite has asked me, as representing the Foreign Office in this House, whether His Majesty's Government have taken any steps to carry out the suggestion made by the Prime Minister in a speech on December 22nd last year, with regard to the policy of huge armaments, and, if so, whether there are any Papers which can be laid on the Table of the House. In the first place, I would point out that the first sentence in the speech of the Prime Minister to which my noble friend has called attention is simply the statement of a fact which, alas! none of us can deny—namely, that the existence of these enormous armaments in Europe does feed and encourage the belief in the minds of the people of the world that force is 1531 the remedy which must be looked to for the settling of international differences. Therefore I am not inclined to think that any debate would be likely to arise in regard to that, taken as an isolated proposition. It is rather when we come to the second half of the extract which my noble friend has placed upon the Paper that we enter upon the ground of actual politics and debate.
My noble friend asks me whether His Majesty's Government, in the short time in which they have been in office, have been able to take any actual steps towards realising a better condition of things with regard to armaments than now exists in Europe. In reply, I would in the first place remind your Lordships that the speeches made by Ministers when the Army and Navy Estimates were placed before the House of Commons, and the Budget statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, clearly show that the mind of His Majesty's Government has already been turned to this question. It is our hope—indeed it is our confident belief—that next year, unless events take quite an unlocked for and unfavourable turn in Europe, we shall be able to propose some reductions in expenditure, by means of changes in war establishments, which may tend somewhat in the direction of the wishes of the noble Lord. As a matter of fact, the Naval Estimates—and this is not owing to the policy of His Majesty's Government alone, it is quite as much due to the policy of their predecessors in the last eighteen months of their period of office—tho Naval Estimates, as compared with those of two years ago, show a large and substantial reduction, a reduction of, I think, something like £5,500,000. Of course, it is not to the representative of the Foreign Office in this House that your Lordships look for information as to details.
My noble friend Lord Sanderson, to whom everyone who has been at any time connected with the work of the Foreign Office owes such great obligations, and who spoke with an unrivalled experience of affairs, indicated some of the difficulties which have so often driven those who aim at the ideal in this matter back on to the hard rocks of the practical. It has seemed to me, looking back over the history of this very attractive question, that the cause of disarmament has suffered at different times from certain difficulties 1532 which, till comparatively recently, seemed to make progress almost hopeless. There was at first a tendency on the part of those who urged schemes of disarmament to evolve their plans in such forms as to bring upon themselves the reproach of being unpractical men, and in consequence the cause of disarmament and of arbitration fell into evil repute.
The right reverend Prelate alluded to schemes of great and eminent men in Germany. I am not, perhaps, alluding to these so much as to those plans of universal disarmament which were very frequently put forward at the time of the French Revolution, and put forward under circumstances which could not appeal to this country. When, for example, tho once celebrated Abbé Gregoire invited the French Convention to declare that—A nation should act towards others as she desires that others should act towards her;and that—The individual interest of a nation is subordinate to the general interest of the human family,—it was not possible for persons then living in England to overlook the fact that the countrymen of Abbé Gregoire were engaged at that time in a war with this country, and were doing their best to annex the territory of their neighbours; and therefore they were inclined to think that the worthy Abbé might have kept for domestic consumption, or, at any rate, applied his proposals at home before inviting other nations to join in them.
Then there has always been the difficulty to which my noble friend who spoke just now alluded—the difficulty of finding what may be called a unit of disarmament. This is a military question, and I would like to read to your Lordships a short extract from a speech by Colonel Gross de Schwarzhoff, the German military representative at the Hague Conference, which is to be found in the Blue-book on the Peace Conference which was laid before your Lordships' House. Colonel Gross de Schwarzhoff said—He considered that the question of effectives could not be discussed by itself as there were many others to which it was in some measure subordinated, such, for instance, as the length of service, the number of cadres, whether existing in peace or made ready for war, the amount of training received by reserves, the situation of the country itself, its 1533 railway system, and the number and position of its fortresses. In a modern army he considered that all these questions went together, and that national defence included them all. Each people, he continued, had created its own system of defence, in accordance with its history and traditions, and with due regard to its geographical situation, its duties, and surrounding conditions.Whether we think that those difficulties can be overcome or whether we think them insuperable, which was rather the argument of the German representative, I am inclined to think we shall all at least agree that they are difficulties that we must respect; and if I had any doubt at all on the question I would feel none after having read, as I have, the correspondence which exists in the Foreign Office between one of our greatest foreign Ministers, Lord Clarendon, and one of our greatest ambassadors, Lord Lyons, just before the Franco-German war.
When it was the wish of Lord Clarendon, who was a man quite able to look to the ideal, but who also had an eminently practical mind, to take in hand this question of European disarmament, especially as between France and Prussia, various communications passed between him and Lord Lyons, and there is one short passage to be found in one of Lord Lyons' despatches which places in a very clear light those difficulties to which my noble friend alluded. Lord Lyons, in a communication to Lord Clarendon on January 25th, 1870, wrote as follows—The present Ministers were, Count Daru said, disposed to reduce the annual contingent in France from 100,000 to 80,000 men; in fact, to make a reduction of one-fifth. But how could they propose this, when Prussia had 900,000 men virtually under arms? France was inclined to set a good example, but would Prussia follow it? He had, he confessed, a hope that the establishment of Parliamentary Government in France might not be without its influence; that the people of Germany, seeing that the French nation had taken the management of its own affairs into its own hands, might also insist upon exercising a control over the inordinate military establishments which entailed so great an expense in men and money.Nearly thirty-six years have gone by since that was written, but, with very slight alteration of names and places, it indicates the exact difficulties which any British Minister would have who, at this moment, approached foreign Powers; and, indeed, I have shown your Lordships that when the question came forward at the last Hague Conference they were brought up again in very clear and able language 1534 by the distinguished man from whose speech I quoted an extract from a few moments ago. We know, of course, that the wishes of Lord Clarendon were dashed to the ground, that the great French Statesman, Count Daru, with whom he was negotiating, was turned out of office and was succeeded by one who had not these ideas so much at heart, and we know that shortly after Lord Clarendon himself, to the great loss of this country, passed away.
There is yet another difficulty, and I am obliged to go over these points because I do not think the right rev. Prelate quite sufficiently realised them. There has always been, not only the difficulty of finding a unit of disarmament, but also the great difficulty of finding the tribunal, of fixing upon an arbitrator, as it were, who should decide as to whether or not the unit of disarmament, if one had been found, was really honestly and efficiently applied by all the contracting Powers. It was to that difficulty that the schemes to which the right rev. Prelate alluded as the work of great German philosophers and jurists were directed. But were they successful?
It is a curious fact that the most ingenious of all these schemes was intimately connected with the Electress Sophia of Hanover, the illustrious Princess the founder of the Royal Family which reigns over this country. It was an attempt to form a European Court, founded upon a very curious plan, devised by the jurist and philosopher Leibnitz who enjoyed the patronage of the Electress. It was proposed, as the right rev. Prelate will remember, that all the Christian nations of Europe should reduce their religions to a common denomination. It was a sort of intelligent anticipation, if I may say so, of the Cowper - Temple clause. Louis XIV. was to be some kind of Protestant and the Electress Sophia was to become some kind of Catholic. The Western Powers were all to reduce their armies, and the reduced contingents were then to go eastward and march on the Turk and turn him out of Europe; and it may be interesting to recall that in the plan for the distribution of the Sultan's dominions Egypt was to be given to Louis XIV. Fortunately the Electress Sophia at 1535 the last moment preferred the Protestant succession and the Crown of England, though possibly she did not foresee that her descendants would become Protectors of Egypt also.
Your Lordships will see that all these ideal plans have run aground upon the rocks of practical difficulties. The generation in which we live has, therefore, wisely, I think, rather furled its sails and attempted to aim less high, but I am inclined to think that it has obtained more. Successive Foreign Ministers—and we on this side of the House can afford to pay a tribute to those who have gone before us —have succeeded in carrying tho principle of arbitration, incorporated in treaties, exceedingly far, as compared with anything which was the hope of those who were living twenty-five years ago. The Hague Conference in itself represents an immense step forward, because it has left behind it a tribunal whose jurisdiction, we may hope, will gradually be extended. I venture to class in the same order of ideas those great improvements in the law of nations which tend to humanise and limit the operations of war. The example of those who have gone before is naturally that which we desire to follow.
There are practical difficulties to be surmounted, but I see no reason why we should despair of approaching in some distant future the ideal to which the right rev. Prelate invited us. In 1883 the first treaty containing an arbitration clause was signed by this country. It was the commercial treaty with Italy. I had the honour to hold the same office at that time which I now hold, and I remember that some persons then thought that even so humble a step as that was not a practical one and that nothing would come of it. But from commercial treaties the arbitration clause has extended to other treaties, and finally there is now what might almost be called a model arbitration treaty which the noble Marquess opposite succeeded in signing with a great number of European Powers. The smaller Powers are all coming into line. Surely that represents great and substantial progress.
As a Power which is not scheming any act of aggression against any other Power, we have through the Prime 1536 Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs expressed our hope that a better state of things may gradually be produced, and we have already set an example by the reduction of expenditure. We may therefore appeal to the Governments of Europe to follow the example we have set and to join us in the aspirations that were expressed by the Secretary of State a few nights ago.
A German newspaper the other day, a paper of weight and authority, said that disarmament was easier for countries on what is termed the periphery of the European State system than for those at the centre. I am not prepared to dispute that. The military system of Prussia originated, with a generation in which the older men had seen Berlin occupied by a Russian army in 1760 and the younger men had seen it occupied by a French army after the battle of Jena. Providence has mercifully spared us such visitation and it is therefore not for us in these matters to sit in judgment upon others less favourably situated.
But we can at least protest in a friendly spirit against any European Power thinking it necessary to increase her burdens yet further and to add yet more to her armaments under a mistaken apprehension that we are planning some great act of aggression by sea, either in the near or more distant future; and we note with satisfaction and reciprocate the friendly language used in the German Parliament on Wednesday. Therefore it is that with such verbal alterations as the moment and place required, I to-night endorse here the words of the Secretary of State in the House of Commons the other night.
As in the time of the late Government, Lord Goschen, when First Lord of the Admiralty, made a public invitation on behalf of the Government to other countries to respond to the feeling of this country for a reduction of naval establishments, so now we trust that this debate in your Lordships' House may be taken as an invitation to other countries to respond to our feeling in favour of encouraging the reduction of armaments, and we decline to be precluded from making a proposal ourselves at The Hague Conference if the times and seasons are favourable, as we trust that, under Divine providence, they may be.
My Lords, before the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition addresses your Lordships, as I imagine he will, on behalf of the Party opposite, I should like in a few words to call attention to one very curious omission which it appears to me has been made in the course of this debate. The debate has proceeded hitherto upon the general questions which arise with regard to our enormous armaments both here and abroad, and the growing desire for arbitration and conciliation in the relations between nations; but neither the noble Lord who has spoken on behalf of His Majesty's Government nor the noble Lord who for so long a period occupied an important position at the Foreign Office has made the smallest allusion to an event of great importance—namely, the approaching meeting, as we all hope, of the second Hague Conference.
It is true that the noble Lord gave us a quotation of part of the speech of the Secretary of State in the House of Commons which contained a reference to that meeting, but it seems to me that that is a capital point on which we ought to dwell at the present moment. I do not know at whose invitation, but I assume at the invitation of the Emperor of Russia, there will be held, we understand, in the course of next year the second Hague Conference; and it is because I desire to direct the attention of the Government to the important issues that must be raised in the course of that Conference that I have ventured to intervene now with a very few words. The first Hague Conference, called together on the initiative of the Tsar, did, I think, a very great work for humanity, because it resulted in the estsblishment of The Hague tribunal and the setting up of a permanent body to which all international difficulties can be, and I hope will be increasingly, referred. But the first Hague Conference was a casual gathering assembled at the invitation of a great potentate, not a regular institution which was to meet automatically at certain periods. I hope that the next Hague Conference will assent to this proposition, that it is to be regarded 1538 no longer as a casual meeting but as a permanent institution, to be called together automatically at certain periods for the purpose of continuing the work of civilisation and of peace.
I further hope that The Hague Conference will establish a permanent Committee, or, rather two permanent Committees, one of which shall carry on the work of the codification of international law, which at present is done, or more correctly stated, assumed to be done, as we all know, by irresponsible bodies, and that it will also set up that very Court to which allusion has been made, a Court of military control which shall be able to supervise the whole question of the limitation of armaments. It has been said by Lord Sanderson that we must wait until one of the great Powers of Europe leads the way in the diminution of armaments. If we wait till then we may wait for ever. We must take the opportunity of the next Hague Conference, not only to act ourselves, but to bring in with us other Powers; and we most certainly should have the active co - operation of the United States in making a determined appeal to the second Hague Conference to try to bring about some limitation in the enormous growth of naval and military armaments throughout the world.
It is said that the Governments of different countries find great difficulty in initiating or carrying out any proposal of that kind; but behind all Governments in these days there stand the people, the tax-payers. The taxpayers of Germany, of France, of this country, and of all the great military nations have to bear the terrible burdens of the immense and bloated armaments and I say, as the Prime Minister has wisely said on a memorable occasion, that it is our business, standing at the head of civilisation, to put ourselves in the forefront of this great movement and try and bring about at the next Hague Conference that League of Peace which I believe will respond to the popular feeling of the world, and overcome all the difficulties which have been alluded to in the matter of the limitation of armaments.
My Lords, I only rise to say one word in reply to part of the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. Napoleon, who is 1539 admitted to have been one of the ablest of men, imposed on Prussia in 1807 a Treaty of Peace by which she was not to have more than 42,000 men. For several years the French Army remained in occupation in Prussia, and notwithstanding all the opportunities Napoleon and Marshal Davoust had of supervising Prussia, when that country at last threw down the gauntlet in 1813, she put over 220,000 men in the field, and although she lost more than 42,000 men killed in battle, she had large armies opposite Paris in 1814 at the conclusion of hostilities. That shows how impossible it is to limit armaments when a nation will not submit to the limitation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I have only a few words to add to the interesting conversation which has taken place this evening. My noble friend who initiated it gave utterance to a feeling which I think must have been present for a long time past, not only to the mind of every Member of your Lordships' House, but to every citizen of this country. We know how intolerable the increase of these burdens is becoming, and we realise, as he realises, that not only are they hard to bear in the present, but that their existence tends to diminish the resources of the country and to make it more difficult for us in future times of emergency to respond as readily as we might wish to calls upon the public purse. But, my Lords, this question is after all, a practical one, and it is not one which can be solved by mere aspirations for more peaceful counsels and more moderate armaments. To what, then, can we look for relief? I think it is obvious that there are two directions and two directions only, in which we can look for an improvement in a condition of things which we all deplore.
We can, in the first place, maintain our present policy, we can continue to take the precautions which we have hitherto thought it necessary to take, and we can at the same time economise in administration. We have been told again to-night that His Majesty's Government are able to hold out to us a definite prospect that they will be able to economise in administration. I wish them success. I think it too likely that in the past a great deal of public money has been unwisely spent in naval and military 1540 defences. That has been due, to my mind, mainly to this cause, that we have been in the habit of adopting rather too hurriedly what I might describe as the undigested advice of our naval and military experts. I do not think we have always realised sufficiently that these great problems of Imperial defence are not merely political problems, or naval problems, or military problems, but that they are all three; at once, and it is because we have failed to consider those problems in that more comprehensive manner that I believe we have in the past been led frequently to unnecessary expenditure, whether upon ships, armaments, or, more especially, upon coast defences, such, for example, as those costly works in the Channel Islands and at St Lucia which have more than once been referred to in this House.
That state of things has to some extent, I venture to believe, been improved by the creation of the Committee of Imperial Defence, to whose counsel it is due that before we left office we were able to make some reductions, at all events, both in our naval and in our military expenditure. I remember the time when that Committee was called into existence, and when in both of the great spending Departments there was an uneasy feeling that it might prove extremely embarrassing to them. That feeling has, I think, passed away, and both the Admiralty and the War Office now recognise that the Committee of Imperial Defence is a valuable ally and a protection to them in the administration of their affairs. I am glad to think that that Committee remains in existence, and that His Majesty's Government recognise the value of its advice.
Some saving may then be possible by economy in administration, but my noble friend Lord Avebury contemplates something very different from that. What he desires is that there should be an alteration in the very foundation of our naval and military policy, and that we should in consequence of such an alteration diminish the precautions which we have up to the present time been in the habit of taking; and he bases this suggestion on the fact that in his belief a great change has arisen in the international situation. The noble Lord quoted at length the speech of the Prime 1541 Minister, in which Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman made a reference to what he described as the happier conditions now I prevailing, conditions to which he thought our armaments might for the future be adjusted.
§ LORD AVEBURY
Will my noble friend allow me to explain? My argument was that France, Germany, and England are all about to increase their navies, and it appeared to me that we might therefore approach France and Germany and suggest that we should be relatively in the same position if we left our navies at the same strength as they are at present.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend made his meaning perfectly clear, and I will come to that in a moment. What I venture to submit to the House is that it is our duty to think twice before assuming that the time has really come when we may venture, in anticipation of the action of other Powers, to resort to any such general measure of disarmament as was apparently contemplated by my noble friend, and certainly must have been contemplated by the Prime Minister in the speech which my noble friend quoted.
Our policy up to the present time has been, in the strictest sense, a policy of defence. We have no sinister designs upon the territory of other people. We have to provide for the safety of our own possessions, and, above all, for the protection of our great commerce; and it is principally in order to ensure the safety of our commerce that the large naval tonnage referred to is necessary, a tonnage which, unless I am mistaken, is very largely composed of cruisers. That expenditure is in the nature of insurance against risks, and so long as risks continue so long must we, as reasonable people, make our insurance bear some proportion to the risks we run.
While I say that, I admit that the policy of adjusting our military and naval expenditure to the military and naval expenditure of other Powers has its obvious inconveniences. It is a policy which, if pursued, so to speak, to the bitter end, may lead to something like national bankruptcy, and the moment may come when the people of this country will prefer o eat their daily bread in 1542 fear rather than starve in security. But we have not arrived at that point yet. I admit, nevertheless that no greater blessing could be conferrod upon the peoples of the world, and no greater claim to an immortal gratitude could be established by Sovereign or statesman, than by the Sovereign or statesman who was able to induce the European Powers to make some abatement in those colossal armaments which are involving all of them in such immense expense.
But, my Lords, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether this country is the country upon whom it is incumbent to take the first step towards that process of disarmament. The right rev. Prelate who spoke to us so eloquently this ovening is no longer in his place. If he were I should tell him that I am the last person in the world to make light of that ideal which ho held up for our admiration. I have myself in a very humble way endeavoured to pursue that ideal; but, like many other people, I have been discouraged by seeing how the shores of the promised land ever seem to recede into the distance of the political horizon.
Now, my Lords, it is worth considering for one moment what are those happier conditions which my noble friend Lord Avebury and the Prime Minister have in their minds. We have, to begin with, treaties of arbitration, of which we may say, without fear of contradiction, that the late Government concluded a greater number than any other Government, either in this country or elsewhere. And we have practised what we preached, because we have referred some questions with practical results to arbitration. It attach the greatest value to the principle of arbitration. It creates a predisposition in favour of peaceful settlements; it prevents great Powers from fastening a quarrel one upon another for some purely trivial reason; and, as the right rev. Prelate told us so truly, when trouble is brewing the existence of the machinery of arbitration tends to give time, which, as he put it, so often has the effect of cooling down hot and angry passions. But, my Lords, treaties of arbitration will certainly not rid the world altogether of the danger of conflict, There are some questions about which no Power 1543 will go to arbitration; and in every treaty of arbitration that I have ever seen or had to do with there has been a clause in which it was expressly laid down that upon certain matters touching the vital interests or the honour of the contracting parties they would not consent to submit to arbitration.
In addition to arbitration, you may look to international settlements of outstanding questions, such as the international arrangement which we were able to conclude with the French Republic. I attach almost more value to such arrangements than I do to treaties of arbitration, because they are, or may be, the means of getting rid of the cause of dispute in its origin instead of leaving it in existence to be dealt with afterwards by arbitration.
I am glad to think that the conclusion of such arrangements acts as an encouragement to the conclusion of other similar arrangements between the Powers, and I am sure that we have all noticed with satisfaction the announcement which was made a few hours ago in regard to the hopeful relations now existing between the Government of this country and the Russian Government. We have made a good arrangement with France, and nothing could be more satisfactory than that it should be followed by an arrangement on the same lines with the friend and ally of France, the nation which is ruled by a Sovereign who has always shown by his actions how near to his heart is the cause of international peace. And, my, Lords, I may also express the pleasure with which I became aware that His Majesty's Government had been able to dispose of the long-standing and troublesome difference of opinion with the Congo State as to affairs in the Bahrel-Ghazal and on the Nile.
There remains one other mode of diminishing the risk of international complications. Many countries, finding the burden of armaments so great that they are unable to bear it alone, have shared it with other Powers by means of alliances. I have always regarded these groupings of the Powers not as a menace to the peace of Europe, but as an additional security for it, because a single Power is very apt to think twice before it precipitately embarks on a quarrel if it knows that that quarrel will involve, not itself alone, but those with whom it is 1544 most closely connected; and your Lordships cannot have forgotten that, although in former days it was the policy of this country, I may almost say the pride of this country, to keep clear of such international contracts, we took a long step in a new direction in the alliance which we made with the Empire of Japan, an alliance which I have always defended, and shall always continue to defend, as one calculated to ensure peace, and to diminish the prospect of international strife.
By all these means something can no doubt be done to diminish international tension, and to make it possible for the Powers to content themselves with a more moderate amount of naval and military preparation. I for one should rejoice if it were indeed the case that there now prevailed among those Powers who will meet next year at The Hague a feeling that the time had come, when on account of the greater serenity of the international atmosphere it was possible for them to desist from some, at all events, of the military and naval preparations which they have been in the habit of making. I should rejoice to see such a movement. I should rejoice to see that the Government of this country was able to take part in it. I should like to see that movement become so general and so popular that those Powers, whether it was one Power or a small number, who held aloof, would place themselves in a really invidious and untenable position; and I should be glad if His Majesty's Government or their representatives were able to contribute anything towards such a result.
But, my Lords, I wish to make it perfectly clear that while those are my feelings I should most strongly object to anything in the shape of a contract by which the Government of this country bound itself to restrict either its naval or its military armaments within certain prescribed limits. There are fatal objections, to my mind, to any arrangement of the sort. Some of them lave been touched upon in the course of this debate. The difficulty of finding a formula applicable to tho varying conditions, political, naval, and military,of the contracting parties is almost insuperable But, besides that, supposing you have made your bargain, what means have you of deciding whether the contract 1545 has been observed? And supposing you are satisfied that it has not been observed, what means have you of enforcing your contract?
Those seem to me to be practical objections, and I have never been told how it is possible to surmount them. It is notorious that there are innumerable ways of evading any international bargains of the kind which I have endeavoured to describe. But, even if other Powers were ready to submit to such ties, I feel extremely doubtful whether the people of this country would submit to them. We had an object lesson not very long ago. We entered into a Convention with regard to the prosaic subject of sugar, and under that Convention it will be remembered we set up a Standing Commission, to whom was to be entrusted the task of deciding whether the contracting parties, including ourselves, had or had not violated the terms of the Convention. Your Lordships will remember that no feature in the arrangement was so unpopular as that Commission, because we were told that we were handing over to a cosmopolitan tribunal the arrangement of the tariff of this country. If a small arrangement of that kind was unpopular, what would be said of an International Commission to whom we committed the task of saying to us, "You have too many battalions or too many ships, and we therefore call upon you at once to diminish your Army by such and such a number of men or your squadrons by such and such a number of vessels.
This country must, in my humble opinion, retain its freedom to take whatever measures are necessary for the security of the Empire and of British commerce. It must be our principle to watch others and to follow their lead, rather than to diminish our precautions in anticipation of what they might possibly hereafter do; and I must say that if the disposition which my noble friend Lord Avebury detects in the tone of some of the great Powers really exists, it seems to me not unreasonable to expect of them that they will set us the example. Our Navy is so much more essential to us than any other Navy is to any other Power that we cannot afford to play tricks with a question which is really vital to the very existence of this country.
1546 As for The Hague Conference, my noble friend on the Cross Benches, Lord Sanderson, whose first participation in our debates we all welcomed, reminded your Lordships that the first Hague Conference was entirely unsuccessful in dealing with this question, and, unless I am very much mistaken—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—the invitations which were given to us to attend the new Hague Conference did not contain any reference at all to this question as one of those with which the Conference was intended to deal.
If I may sum up what I desire to say I would do so in these words. Certainly let us show a readiness to discuss with other Powers the possibility of lessening our naval and military expenditure, and certainly let us support any Powers we find ready to give us a lead. But do not let us take any steps until it is established beyond all question that other Powers are not only in favour of doing what is desired, but have made a commencement in doing it. If this country is respected by other Powers it is not only because our diplomacy is straightforward and honest, not only because we are known to have no aggressive designs on other people, but because it is perfectly well understood that, much as we love peace, we are ready for war, and will take the risk of war if war becomes unavoidable. And, as to that, I would remind your Lordships that within the last few weeks we have been told by the Secretary of State for War that our Army, whatever its imperfections, was never more efficient than it is at present, and by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the British fleet never was in a position of greater comparative superiority. If that is true, let us think twice before, in pursuit of an ideal, no matter how attractive or how noble, we diminish the fighting efficiency of those two great services.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
My Lords, we have had a very interesting discussion on a very important question, and we have heard many eloquent speeches and speeches of the greatest weight, like that from my noble friend on the cross Benches, Lord Sanderson. My noble friend who has just sat down expressed his belief that his Majesty s Government would be likely to take all steps that they could for reducing our military 1547 and naval expenditure so far as might be safe. That is precisely the policy which his Majesty's Government desire and intend to follow.
I draw a great distinction between the two terms "diminution of expenditure" and "disarmament." The diminution of naval or military expenditure, or both, must be regulated by considerations of the condition and circumstances of each country. The people of the country are the best judges of what is necessary for their own security, and, for whatever may be required for that security, either at home or in foreign parts, it is, and always will be, the duty of the Government of this country to make ample provision. But when my noble friend, Lord Avebury, speaks of a policy of disarmament, he enters upon a totally different description of discussion. Disarmament cannot be entertained, as it seems to me, by any country, except with a fair and general understanding with other nations. We cannot enter upon anything which would deserve to be called disarmament so long as other nations maintain the great, and, if I may say so without disrespect, the exaggerated armaments which they maintain at the present time.
I think the noble Marquess opposite cast undue doubt upon the possibility of entering into any consideration of this question of international armaments at the coming Hague Conference. My noble friend behind me, Lord Weardale, misunderstood what fell from my noble friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his excellent speech. The noble Lord seemed to think that Lord Fitzmaurice said nothing, or hardly anything, with respect to The Hague Conference. That is not the case. My noble friend referred to what had been said by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place. Your Lordships know the language that my right hon. friend used. He said in effect, "We do not hold ourselves in any way precluded from discussing this question at The Hague Conference if we should see fit to do so." To that we undoubtedly intend to adhere. If an opportunity should offer, if we should find the representatives of other nations ready to discuss this subject, we shall be prepared to do so. My noble friend who has just sat down said, 1548 "Let us follow their lead." I do not think that is necessary. We may follow their lead, or they may follow our lead, but we are not going to pledge ourselves that we will not give them a lead if the opportunity arises. That is quite consistent with what was said by the Prime Minister and what has been said by many successive ministers since the days of Lord Clarendon.
We do most ardently desire, for the benefit of the world much more than for our own benefit, that the day should come when these vast armaments may be diminished; and, if we can do anything which is consistent with the maintenance of our own position, it would be our clear duty to do it if opportunity should offer. But we are not going to rush wildly into this question. We stand very much on a statement which was made in 1899 by my noble friend Lord Goschen in reference to this question of naval expenditure, and we look to seize, and seize with avidity, any opportunity which may come to us to promote the relief of the nations of the world by a general reduction of the present vast armaments. But we do not intend, in any course we may take, whether at home or at the Hague Conference or anywhere else, to do anything which would tend in the smallest degree to weaken the security which is necessary to the maintenance of the Empire.