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any part of the Empire. Thus, in fact, none of the
, sanctions of the League could be put into force against the Empire. The weight of the League can, in effect, never be used against any particular part of the British Empire.
There is, of course, no reason at all why the British Empire should occupy a privileged position in the League. It emerges from the war far more powerful than any other Power. Its influence in the League will be paramount. Why should the Empire be given extra votes for the Dominions so that its voting strength will be five or six times that of other nations of greater population ? When we realise the immense advantages this would give the Empire, we cannot think that it was the intention of the parties to recognise the unity of the Empire and at the same time give each British member all the privileges of independence. It will be remembered that Europe did not want the League. It was forced upon her by the Anglo-Saxon nations. Europe was, therefore, not at the moment in a mood to criticise details or work out consequences. European Powers have made mental reservations which will become apparent when the League functions in a manner hostile to any of them. Nothing could be more dangerous than an anomaly of this kind. It would never stand a real test. In case of crisis, when such an unfair advantage is given to the Empire, other nations would refuse to recognise the authority of the League.
The United States, on the other hand, has appreciated the position to the full. The separate voting power has been one of the most powerful influences in America against the acceptance of the League. Viscount Grey, when in the United States, was pressed by the logic of these objections, and on his return put forward the theory that the only reasonable interpretation of the Covenant is that the Dominions cannot vote on any question in which a British member is interested. This is a piece of constructive interpretation. There is no warrant for it in the Covenant. It mitigates though it hardly meets the force of our criticism. But, so far, no authoritative statesman in England or the Dominions has agreed to what Lord Grey considers the only reasonable interpretation. It is obvious that Sir Robert Borden and General Smuts disagree. The whole episode, indeed, leads British policy into an awkward position. The League is a necessity to the British Empire, just as the Empire is a necessity to the Dominions. It would make a bad impression and really destroy the moral value of the League if the Covenant, which the British Delegation imposed upon the world, contains anomalous privileges inconsistent with its spirit. So far public attention has not envisaged this phase of the League situation. We go on as if there were no question as to the integrity of the Empire. This inattention is the result of war strain. Otherwise the public mind, both in England and the Dominions, would be contemplating the alternatives, the League or the Empire. It would be a strange irony if the pacific policy of the Anglo-Saxon nations has created a something which destroys the most effective instrument of the world's peace—the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Using the test we set out to apply—the test of statesmanship—we have to ask ourselves whether in the adjustment arrived at in Paris any workable and politic basis has been laid down for the future of the Empire; and we answer by suggesting the doubt whether the Empire still remains intact. As an episode in statesmanship, indeed, the history of this development is profoundly disturbing. The delegates of the different Dominions have no
common ground. They do not agree in their interpretation of what they have done. They took nobody into their confidence, and they have not rendered an adequate account of the changes they have brought about. The changes apparently effected involve huge alterations in organisation. There has been no attempt to provide this. They involve consequences of great importance in our mutual relations.
consequences are not being faced. The most conspicuous element in the whole episode has been the appetite for privilege and status on the one band, and the blindness, on the other, to the obligations and the responsibilities which that status implies. None of the Dominions can protect itself with its own resources ; and in this essential respect the basis of independence-even virtual independence—is absent. In short, there has been a failure to face the issues and the
facts-a veiling of contradictions by thin formulæ and radical irresponsibility. The silence and inactivity o British statesmen on this matter is surprising. Have they nothing to say? no advice to give ? Their inaction has been dictated by prudence. The suspicion that Downing Street is engaged in the congenial task o undermining Dominion authority is the favourite cry of politicians who are destitute of ideas on the matter. In this case the Dominions have been given their heads Still the responsibility for securing the integrity of the Imperial structure must ultimately rest with British statesmen. At present it is not being discharged. Silence is not justifiable in the circumstances. When changes are proposed by the Dominions and Great Britain acquiesces, the Dominions are entitled to understand that the United Kingdom still retains its full responsibility. But is it clear that this is now the case? Will the British people accept responsibility for a war which has been brought about by Canadian diplomacy which the United Kingdom has been unable to influence? No British statesman has put this to the people of Great Britain. In their present overburdened position it is pretty clear that they would not feel bound by such action. Silence under such circumstances is disingenuous. We should know precisely what England stands for and what the implications of our action are, so far as she is concerned.
It is not part of the scheme of this article to suggest methods of Imperial organisation which are needed to meet the problems that have been raised. An attempt has been made to state the issue as a political problem and suggest the importance of a deeper consideration than public men have yet given to it. We have grown accustomed to treat questions of Empire development as problems in evolution. The Empire has developed by slow steps through the action of a Governor here and a Premier there, upon which actions the thought of publicists worked out the implications and consequences and gradually built up the Imperial theory. In this case one huge step has been taken and it is set down in indefinite terms in a contract with third parties. The interpretation of this document is for everybody to make.
It is not a merely domestic issue.
So far every advance in the freedom of the Dominions has been an integrating factor, because the growing appreciation by the Dominions of their responsibilities has led to their realising their vital need of the strength which comes of union. Their sense of responsibility has been temporarily obscured by war.
The intoxications of victory, the achievements of each, conceal the fact, which is more than ever true, that no Dominion can stand by itself. The whole problem is to bring the Dominions, as national units
, in touch with their responsibilities, to make them feel the realities of the position. Thus the participation of the Dominions in the Peace Conference was absolutely correct. It gave them their first glimpse of diplomatic realities. It enabled them to try their prentice hand. The mistakes of the individual delegates will be plain to the citizens they represent. But the only way in which the responsibilities of the Dominion Leaders for the security of their own States can be discharged is by their deliberate choice of combined and co-operative action and the rejection of everything which would prevent it. This may involve the rejection of the separate voting power in the League and the provision of some machinery by which the Empire can speak with a single voice. But it will not sacrifice the national identity of the Dominions. They could have a status in the League, take part in its subsidiary organisations and administrative activities, remaining nations, but realising their nationhood in association with their partner nations in the British Commonwealth. This conception finally rules out the idea of Imperial Federation, which would destroy the sense of responsibility in the Dominions by taking the problem of national security out of their hands and placing it in the hands of an ineffective Super-State remote from their daily life. These responsibilities must be discharged through their national institutions.
Mr Lionel Curtis, in his advocacy of Imperial Federation, has endeavoured to demonstrate the impracticability of co-operation between independent States. But he bases his arguments upon the experience of the American Colonies during the War of Independence. This does not order of success, and at Paris the British Empire Delegation gave an exhibition of co-operation which left little to be desired. When the League of Nations is established in working order, the British Delegation should be organised so as to operate in the same way.
In that conflict co-operation between the various parts of the Empire attained a high
hold for the recent war.
After the magnificent example of British patriotism which the war brought forth, it is not possible to doubt the vitality of the Britannic idea. The British Commonwealth is there in spirit if we can only correctly embody it in the proper formulæ and articulate an effective system. We do not want a Bismarck to come upon us like a God from the clouds with a cast-iron constitution. We want to rely upon the spirit of the race and its welltried political capacity. This was shown better in the first days of the war than at its close, when all were suffering from war strain. The Dominion Governments never exercised a more individual and independent judgment than when they put their forces under the command of the British authorities. In that act they drew themselves up to the full stature of Nation hood. Their inability to discuss or decide questions of foreign policy, of war and peace, was a matter for which they had made no provision and which must now be attended to. But the true spirit still exists even though leadership may falter. Canada and South Africa may strain at the painter. Let it break, and their heads will immediately turn round and seek the old moorings. There is no reason to fear that the problems which face us will not be solved. We are tackling a problem which baffled the greatest Empire of the old world, the reconciliation of Empire and Liberty. We were confronted with an enemy which frankly accepted authority as its basis, and the principle of Liberty secured us the victory. There is little doubt that, if we face the position squarely and fearlessly, we shall secure an effective unity in a British Commonwealth of Nations.
F. W. EGGLESTON,