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I think, an interesting historical fact that the English, necessarily the great exponents of maritime law, and those best trained in its spirit, were almost the first to insist on a similarly disciplined humanity on land. It was the Duke of Wellington, in the Crimea, and afterward in France, who, by his practice, laid the foundation of all these rules for the protection of noncombatants, which much later on were embodied in the agreements of Geneva and The Hague.
Thus sea-war had a double influence on the national character. It made the English the protagonists of political justice and right dealing, and it trained the nation in the higher humanity that insists that the horrors of war shall be limited by the observance of civilized regulations. Nor was either influence limited to the European sphere. To my mind there is nothing fanciful in the idea that the successive abolitions, first of the slave-trade all over the world, and next of slave-owning in British possessions, were very largely due to the compulsory education that the British people received from seamen. I need hardly remind American readers of the influence of this example on the conduct of their forebears. And it is certainly an historical fact that when, after the Congress of Vienna, the old monarchies of Europe exhibited a deplorable reaction toward absolutism, — against which the popular elements in the South American colonies of Spain and Portugal rebelled, — it was at the instance of the British Prime Minister that President Monroe announced the famous doctrine ever since associated with his name. And it was certainly because of British sea-power that, at that most critical time, the doctrine was respected.
All these things are vaguely in the Englishman's mind when he looks at the present naval situation and sees how lamentably Great Britain has fall
en from her great estate. But he will be wholly wrong to blame his government for allowing this thing to be. The deeper and saner interpretation of our seasupremacy, while it lasted, is not that it corresponded with some such innate national pride as is echoed in' Britannia rules the waves'; not that it was a luxury which our old overwhelming wealth gave us, and our present poverty cannot afford; not that it was a natural outcome of our merchant-shipping, which, when all is said and done, is as dominant to-day as it was before the war: Great Britain maintained a seaforce superior to that of all other combinations of sea-force for just so long as her security as a nation made it imperative and — this is the point — for no longer. If our navy lasted long enough to defeat the German effort, and if that defeat left us without an enemy or a threat against us in any part of the world, then the British Navy had done its work. Whether America or Japan or any other country with whom we had cooperated to win had a larger fleet than that which we had inherited from pre-war conditions was, so to speak, a matter of indifference. Surprising as the man in the street has found the present naval situation to be, it has, of course, been no surprise at all to those who follow public events closely and who have attempted to understand the causes behind them.
That the American and Japanese fleets do not threaten Great Britain — and here I drop the technical argument and confine myself to the political situation — is certainly clear enough to-day. We have no differences that we know of with either country. We have an offensive and defensive alliance with Japan, against the world, except the United States; and we have a treaty of arbitration with the United States which, as both nations respect their plighted word, is no scrap of paper, but a bond.
It has happened in the history of nations that an unsuspected conflict of economic interests, an outburst of local passion, in which foreign nations suffer, or a sudden conflict of national interest in a third country has induced such violent words and feelings, that governments have been powerless to stem them. Any tension of this sort between Great Britain and the United States is, of course, very improbable. But should it arise, the treaty safeguards the position. Most of us think — and we are certainly right in so thinking — that the real reason why the treaty exists is because it is wholly unnecessary. There could, of course, be no better explanation of a written agreement. The Americans and the British would arbitrate in any event. Be this as it may, the treaty is there; and other things being as they are now. I repeat, neither the American nor the Japanese fleet seems to us a menace to any vital interest.
It, therefore, summarizes my argument to this point to say that the reason why Great Britain maintained a supreme fleet in former days is so obvious, that all who run may read. The mother nation and that league of free nations which is called the British Empire would have been at the mercy of aggression had it not been so. It bears repeating, that this is the sole and only reason why our fleet was maintained at its old relative strength. It is not so maintained to-day — again, for one reason only: the Empire is not threatened by aggression.
A final point must be made clear before I leave this part of the argument. If the British Navy, while it was supreme, was not a natural outgrowth of British wealth, while that also was supreme, so, too, the fact that, in the costlier and more powerful units, the
British fleet has fallen to the third place is not in the least attributable to the fact that our wealth is not absolutely or relatively what it was. If I am right in saying that the supreme fleet arose from a supreme national emergency, — because without it the nation could not be secure in its possessions, or in its destiny, — then, certainly, I am right in going further and saying that, were these possessions or this destiny again threatened, the fleet would be made supreme again. There is no conceivable sacrifice that would limit it. We have a heavy war-debt, a legacy of heavy post-war extravagances. But from the day when the late hostilities began to the day they ended, it never occurred to a soul in these islands to say that we could not afford the sacrifices involved. No one did suggest, nor could anyone suggest, that five thousand millions, or eight or ten thousand millions, was the limit we could spend. So long as the war lasted, the nation was in peril. The rate of sacrifice had to be maintained until that peril was removed. The principle on which we acted was the principle on which we should act again, if, in time of peace, the threat of war reappeared.
It is important that this truth should be fully grasped, for otherwise we shall not get the Conference issues clearly in our minds. The Conference is commonly spoken of as if its immediate purpose were to bring about a tripartite agreement for the limitation of naval armaments. In other criticisms of mine I have given my reasons for saying that I do not think an agreement on this point is feasible. This doubt is a corollary of the theory I have just put forward. Armaments of all kinds, whether naval or military, either are a necessity of national safety or they manifest an intention to commit some unprovoked aggression on others. Or, of course, they may be the outcome of mere megalomania and vanity. If a nation fears no other nations, and yet maintains great armies or fleets, then, unquestionably, that nation's conduct is inconsequent — unless it has itself a plan of conquest in mind. And if it fears aggression, it will assuredly maintain its force at the safety limit. No example of, and no pressure from, other nations — short of successful war — will be regarded as binding, if that nation believes that the circumstances in which the agreement was made have changed to its disadvantage. The law of preservation clearly admits no exception, and no nation can contract itself out of its obligations.
Even should such perfect accord be reached as to make each of our three countries willing to execute a contract by which none should build or maintain a navy above a stated strength, there would surely be very great difficulties in drawing up the schedule. Naval force is about the most unsettled thing there is. No one can say to-day how a navy will be composed ten years hence. And even to-day you really want a different navy for different wars. It is to me very hard to picture any unanimity, if each country is to have so many battleships, so many cruisers, so many destroyers, and so on. No type is of constant value; the ratio of types will vary as values vary; new types will come into being. Nor is the money limitation a much happier expedient. We can, after all, see and count ships; but once there is an obligation not to spend above a certain sum, be sure the busybodies and spyhunters will be at work — and that one or the other of us is spending more than we avow will be a constant rumor. I may be wrong. But I see no hope of a binding treaty that shall specify either the scale and kind of navy that is permitted or the amount that may be spent. Let us not forget how Stein defeated Napoleon on the limitation of Prussia's army after Jena.
It seems to me, therefore, that we cannot look to the Washington Conference to result in an immediate agreement for disarmament. But there is no reason at all why immediate disarmament should not be the result of the Conference. For if armament is the outcome of fear, and the Conference can remove that fear, the end we have in view is automatically attained. WTiile I submit that it is no use to tell Japan that she cannot afford, being a poor country, to spend a fabulous proportion of her revenue on her navy, it is of the utmost use that, in an open and public Conference, we should all be able to tell Japan that her possessions and the destinies of her people are in no danger. If we can convince her of this, her people will see to it that they are not taxed for unnecessary armaments.
The work before the Conference, then, is simple. I do not mean that to succeed in getting the work done will prove to be a simple affair. For it is far from easy for the spokesman of a country to be perfectly candid in a statement of national aims; and even if that were easy, it is not a simple business to make that candor intelligible and convincing to others. But, if the Conference is to succeed, it is precisely this that each country, through its delegates, must do.
The Senate has paid me the compliment of including in the report of its proceedings an article on the American Navy, written when the 1916 programme was under discussion; and if I refer to it now, it is because I can appeal to a question asked six years ago as one upon the reply to which the success of the November meeting depends. I had discussed the composition of the proposed new American fleet, and had pointed out that the ratio of battleships to cruisers and destroyers differed materially from the British ratio before the war, and suggested that war had shown the English ratio to be too high. From this I passed on to the question, what the strength of the American fleet should be. It was obviously not a point to which I could suggest the answer, and I had to be content with saying that the answer was to be found when the Americans had found a reply to the further question: from which country did they expect trouble? Now, if the proceedings at Washington could begin with frank statements from Japan and the United States and Great Britain as to what their world-policies are, we should, I submit, attain a definite result with very little delay. Either it will be found that each country can agree that the policies of the others are harmless to it, or we shall be faced by a certainty of conflict which no debate can remove.
To an Englishman it seems inconceivable that this historic meeting can break up without achieving its desired end. One simply cannot believe that the United States of America really fears any people, or can have so departed from the traditions of its past history as to plan the conquest of any territory, or the defeat of any nation, for the sake of glory. If the 'open door' in Asia is a principle of policy as fundamental as is the Monroe Doctrine to America, then it is a principle to which all Europe
and Japan are already pledged; for it figures among the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. And, again, it is inconceivable that Japan can have any avowed policy which America is pledged to thwart; for the problems involved in the desire of Asiatics to settle in countries predominantly European are obviously not such as to lead to war.
Measured, then, by the true test of armaments, — national security, — there seems no reason at all why, after a candid interchange of views, America and Japan should not find it easy, if not to abandon the completion of their present programme, at least not to add to their forces for some years to come; nor, during those years, to maintain those forces fully armed, manned, and ready for action. After all, should they so agree, they will only be acting on a principle that Great Britain has already accepted as a guide to conduct. If we have built but one fighting ship of the first class in the last six years, and no ship of any class in the last three years, we have forborne for one reason and one reason only — there is no enemy for such ships to meet. If Great Britain can sanely abandon a doctrine she has held sacred for more than twice as long as America has held the Monroe Doctrine sacred, and has done so because the occasion for maintaining it no longer exists, then there is at least one occasion less for other nations to crave great strength at sea.
FRANCE, HER POLITICIANS, AND THE WASHINGTON
BY SISLEY HUDDLESTON
Never would I consent to write about France's present-day politicians without making it clear that the politicians are not the French people. For it is impossible, with the utmost indulgence, for anyone who has honestly regarded them at work to refrain from some criticism of them. Unfortunately, there has grown up a fallacy that, in speaking without flattery of a country's accidental and temporary leaders, one is in some way attacking the country. It is not so: for my part, I think France is relatively sound. The French people have superb qualities; they deserve all the eulogies that have been or could be written of them, though naturally they have not escaped the contagion of the world-sickness. They have shown a solid sense, a rooted stability, a laboriousness, that are beyond praise. If France has ever shown signs of revolutionary tendencies, — as she did during one period at least, — it has been because she was misguided; and she quickly recovered herself. No country in the world is less likely to break loose, to run into excesses, whether of Militarism or of Socialism. Always does the restraining force of the people keep the wilder spirits — whether those wilder spirits are Nationalist ministers or Communist agitators — in check.
Whenever I wish to know the true sentiments of ordinary folk, I make a little tour of the cabarets of Paris. In the revues there presented I am per
petually surprised at the healthy reaction against Bolshevism on the one hand and against flamboyant and fireeating patriotism on the other hand (though it must be confessed that every chansonnier has his couplet against England). Anyone who supposes that the people liked the call-up of Class 19 of the army, the demobilization, the remobilization, and the demobilization again of young Frenchmen; anyone who supposes that the French people love to indulge in flourishes and menaces toward Germany, threats of occupation, of dislocation, vauntings of victory and vainglorious strutting, need only listen intelligently to the skits on drum-beating in the spirituel shows of Paris, which are applauded vociferously. Ministers and Muscovites are good game: they are not angrily railed at, they are wittily satirized; they are for the most part tolerated as inevitable and not particularly important. I have heard nearly every politician of note twitted, with the full approbation of the audience. To tell the truth, throughout the history of the Republic, Parliament and Cabinet have been held in little esteem, while President after President has been mercilessly mocked. There is, in short, a curious separation of people and rulers; and the rulers do not always adequately represent the sentiments of the people. For my part, I do not know any country in which this division is more marked.