11 OCTOBER 1913, Page 18



[FIRST NcyncE.] LORD LYONS was not a man of 'genius. It cannot even be said that he possessed any very conspicuously brilliant talents. But he was a great official. In the opinion of some who were highly qualified to judge he was the greatest ambassador who has represented this country in modern times. The full and deeply interesting account of Lord Lyons's career, which has now been given to the world, amply attests the validity of this claim. It is greatly to be hoped that this "record of British diplomacy," as Lord Newton has very aptly called it, will be carefully studied by all classes, and more especially by parlia- mentarians and diplomatists. The general reader may rise from a perusal of these pages without once feeling a sense of shame at the manner in which the affairs of his country have been conducted. He may occasionally criticize his trustees for supineness or want of foresight. Armed with the wisdom which comes from a knowledge of after-events, he may indicate mistakes which have been made, and golden opportunities which have heedlessly been allowed to escape. But' however much he may be inclined to carp at the principle—carried, it must be admitted, at times to excess by Lord Granville, who enunciated it—that " it is always safer, or at least generally so, to, do nothing," he will, if he be impartial, recognize that the adoption of this same principle has not infrequently saved his country from the committal of the many grievous errors which may arise from undue haste and premature activity. Notably, moreover, the general reader may comfort himself with the reflection that the action of his country, even if mistaken, has always been scrupulously honest and straightforward. The vivid searchlight thrown by Lord Newton on the recent history of British diplomacy does not reveal a single feature which calls for the reprobation ofthe moralist. The record is an honourable record. Throughout the whole-period of which it treats, British policy was directed to no unworthy ends. It was controlled by men who may-at times have shown want of skill or judgment, but who were always animated by high motives.

It is, however, to parliamentarians that the study-of Lord Lyons's life and career may more especially be commended. The mere word" diplomacy " appears at times to evoke the wrath • ./.40 Lyons.. By Lord Newton, London; Edward Arnold. [80e. net.] and to excite the suspicions of the democracy ; .neither is it altogether surprising that those suspicions should be excited, ft is not necessary to search the records of eighteenth- Century unscrupulonsnesi in order to be convinced of the fact that, even in far more recent times, there is some justification for the popular idea that diplomacy is morally tainted. The action of such men as Cavour and Bismarck can only be defended on the ground that the end justifies the means, and that the ends which each of these states- men sought to attain—namely, the unification respectively of Italy and Germany—were. noble, "If," Cavour him- self said, "we had done for ourselves the things which we are doing for Italy, we should be great rascals." Turglit thought that the morality of any corporate body was always inferior to that of individuals. Things hare changed since his day, and it may well be that, with the comparatively higher standard of public morality which exists at present and which is to a great extent the outcome of increased publicity, Parliament collectively would shrink from taking action to which an individual, working in the privacy of his cabinet, might assent. Even from this point of view, however, it may reasonably be held that, apart from any personal scruples of conscience, a sufficient deterrent is at present exercised on the questionable proclivities of any individual by the necessity, which certainly awaits him, 'of having to defend his conduct in public.

These, however, are not the sole grounds on which diplomacy la suspected. A recent writer in the Round Table says with great truth, " The Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service have often been denounced of late in England, especially during times of European crisis, as an oligarchy of chess-players, disposing of the lives of men according to the rules of a game devised in days when policy and war were conducted by kings and courts." The remedy for this state of things, it is held, is to bring diplomacy more under the direct control of Parlia- ment. It is perhaps too much to hope that these delusions will be dispelled, and the futility and even danger of the pro- posed change exposed by considerations based on the career of Lord Lyons. Nevertheless, that career assuredly 'affords -food for reflection. Public confidence in the collective wisdom of Parliament does not at present stand very high. Notably, the most ardent advocate of free institutions cannot deny that the House of CoMmons has of late signally failed in the performance of one of its most important and special functions—that of controlling public expenditure. Any think- ing man may therefore well pause before he consents to assign to a very heterogeneous corporate 'body those extremely delicate and difficult duties heretofore performed by such men as Lord Lyons and the late Lord Ampthill, to whose remarkable capacity. ample testimony is incidentally afforded in Lord Newton's book. A single instance *ay, indeed,' be cited of a British diplomatist who in recent years is suspected of having used his influence in the direction of promoting 'war rather than peace. Lord Stratford is very generally credited 'with a. high degree of responsibility in having brought on the Crimean war. Even, however, if it be assumed that this accusation is well founded, it cannot be said that Lord Stratford urged his unwilling countrymen along a path which they had no desire to follow. The worst that can be said of him is that he did nothing to resist the clamour for war, which rtes at the time almost universal. In any case, 'Lord Lyons ;Was a diplomatist of a very different type. He felt strongly 'that his principal mission in life was to preserve peace.

He represented his country at Washington during a period of very exceptional difficulty. He was subsequently transferred to Constantinople. • Short as was his experience of the East, :his rapid insight and strong common sense enabled him at Once to hit upon two of the main sores of Oriental diplomatic life. He saw the evils of the dragoman system. He resolved from the first " to do the business himself as much as possible without dragomans." Further, he "refused to take part in the dirty work by which European speculators are apt to get concessions out of the Turks."

'But the real work of his life still lay before hint For twenty years he laboured unremittingly in the cause of peace at Paris. During the greater portion of that period the Government' of France was in a 'state of unstable equilibrium. The question of Whether the Legitimist, the Orleanist, the Bonapartist, the Moderate or the Red Republican should gain the upper hand was still unsettled. Moreover, the French were smarting under a sense of defeat, and when they had recovered their strength. with a rapidity which -evoked the admiration of the world and were able to cast off the humiliating patronage extended to them from Berlin, they became restless and sensitive to a degree which rendered them very unquiet.

neighbours. It is specially worthy of note, as conveying a.

lesson which our own democracy might profitably take to-. heart, that one, and perhaps not the least, of the dangers.

which threatened the peace of the world during that period. when, as Lord Granville said, the British Foreign Secretary was "constantly jumping from one nightmare to another,"` was due to the fact that, amongst the ephemeral Mbisters who flitted across the French political stage, few possessed.

any solid knowledge of foreign affairs or had had any diplo- matic experience. In nineteen years, Lord Lyons had to deal with twenty-one different French Foreign Ministers. In cir- cumstances such as these it was not easy, to quote another of Lord Granville's felicitous expressions, " to glide back into- cordiality." Lord Lyons, however, contributed probably more than any of his contemporaries towards preventing the lack of cordiality, which unfortunately prevailed during his tenure of office, from producing any irremediable estrangement between the two countries. Looking to his remarkable success as a peacemaker, it will be profitable to inquire into his methods. Lord Lyons, his biographer says, " was essentially a diplo- matist of the old type," and Mrs. Wilfrid Ward, who haat written a very interesting account of the habits and character of her great-uncle, says that he "belonged: to a generation of Englishmen now long passed away. He was not of the type that makes the successful servant of the democracy." It may be so. Yet it is permissible to hope that Mrs. Wilfrid Ward takes an unduly desponding view.of the qualities which are most calculated to command democratic confidence and sympathy. In spite of the modern tendency to self-aclvertiaea- ment, the desire to acquire notoriety or cheap and worthless applause, and the alleged necessity of appealing to ephemeral passion or sentiment, there does not appear to be any adequate justification for adopting the pessimistic view that self-efface- ment, unimpeachable honesty, devotion to duty, and calm

judgment have altogether boat their hold on the majority of Englishmen. They are virtues whose 'light may for a time be eclipsed; but which cannot be extinguished. . Sir Edward Grey possesses many of those characteristics which_ distinguished- Lord Lyons. His pilotage of the ship of State through a period of great difficulty and even danger has gained the confidence of all classes, including apparently that of his- most democratic followers.

Lord Lyons, in common, it may confidently be stated, with all the members of the service to which he belonged, was a' non-party man. He served with equal zeal and devotion

under Liberal and under Conservative Foreign Secretaries. Lord Newton gives an account of some discreditable attempts*

made in the first instance by Lord Clarendon, and in the" second instance, on two occasions, by Mr. Gladstone, abetted by Lord Granville, to drag Lord Lyons into the arena' of party strife by urging him to vote in the House cf Lords. It. is satisfactory to learn that, although he had to succumb to" Lord Clarendon's' insistence, 'he successfully resisted the pressure of Mr. Gladstone. The writer of the present article- can testify, from his personal knowledge, to the view taken- by the late Lord Salisbury on this subject. Lord Salisbury deprecated voting by peers who were also diplomatists even when they were quite ready and willing to vote. .

Turning to personal characteristics, it 'may be said that the" two dominating features of Lord 'Lyons's method were reticence and caution. He was a great believer in the virtue of silence. "I suppose," he wrote, during the Trent affair, whilst the issue of peace or war was still in suspense, and the fever of excitement was at its height, " that I am the only man in America who has expressed no opinion either on the International Law question or on the course which our Government will take." After residing for five years amongst a people more distinguished for hospitality than for reticence, he was able to say that he had " never taken a drink or made a speech." On the other hand, he was a good listener. When the exuberantly communicative M. Thies proposed to him that "England, Austria, Italy, Turkey, and Spain should unite with France to Check the aggression of Prussia and Russia," he wrote to Lord 'Granville, "I thought my prudent course was to listen and say nothing, which, as

you know, is easy with him, for be talks too well for one to be bored with him, and is quite content to talk without interruption." Sir Edward Blount called on him on one occasion and remarked that he had been able to overhear a conversation which bad just taken place between Lord Lyons and M. Blowitz, the correspondent of the Times. " You might," Lord Lyons remarked, " have overheard what was said by M. Blowitz, but you would not have heard anything said by me, for the good reason that I said nothing at all! " He carried reticence so far that one is almost tempted to exclaim, with Wycherley, that "the silence of a wise man is more wrong to mankind than the slanderer's speech." Lord Lyons, however, thought otherwise. "I never volunteer advice," he said, and it was possibly because he never volunteered it that his opinion was so frequently sought.

His caution was on a par with his reticence. " I could not imagine him," Mrs. Wilfrid Ward writes, "ever acting on impulse, even in the matter of going downstairs." Anxious Ministers and diplomatists endeavoured in vain to elicit from him a premature hint as to his own opinions, or as to the policy his country was likely to adopt. In 1866, being then at Constantinople, the Grand Vizier and Ali Pasha called on him. They were "in very low spirits about the Paris Con- ference." M. de Moustier, the effervescent and volatile French Ambassador, had been "constantly frightening them." Lord Lyons, writing to Lord Clarendon, said that he " was willing to comfort them, but that he was determined not to say anything which might be interpreted by them as a pledge either from his Government or himself." In 1880, M. Barthelemy St. Hilaire suggested to Lord Lyons that he should see more of M. Gambetta, whose character, he thought, would be found "an interesting study," upon which Lord Lyons wrote to Lord Granville, "The study will not be a new one to me, and I am not sure that too apparent an intimacy between me and Gambetta would be viewed without jealousy." To cite another instance, in 1880, the Pope (Leo XIII.) was desirous that some sort of British agent should be installed at the Vatican. The proposal aroused a storm of indignation in the House of Commons, which was not altogether calmed by the characteristically Gladstonian explanation that the English word "Agent" was not the precise equivalent of the Italian word " Agente." The subject was mooted to Lord Lyons by the Papal Nuncio in Paris, but he was far too wary to be drawn into any expression of opinion. " Monsignor Czacki," be wrote to Lord Granville, " is a very great talker, which makes it easy to say very little in answer to him, and I took full advantage of the facility for being conveniently silent which this afforded to me." Even at the request of his Sovereign be declined to abandon his habitual reserve. Lord Newton gives the answer which Lord Lyons sent to a wish expressed by Queen Victoria that be would state his opinion on the Treaty of Berlin. It is a model of respectful evasion. It is perhaps almost needless to add that not only was Lord Lyons constitutionally truthful, but also that he considered untruth. fulness to be bad diplomacy. General Ignatieff, he said, " would be an admirable diplomatist if he were only a little more veracious." To these qualifications it may be added that Lord Lyons's irreproachable standard of conduct and morals in private life invested him with the authority which is always accorded to men of exceptionally high character. The sense of humour, which was strong within him, must have been keenly gratified when he learnt that the chief entry on his dossier at the Paris Prefecture de Police was, " On ne lui connait pas de vice."

Such, therefore, were the main characteristics of We eminent and typically British diplomatist. They secured the affection of those who served under him. They elicited the admiration and commanded the confidence of those under whom be served. They eventually led Lord Salisbury to offer him the post of Foreign Secretary, which he very wisely declined to accept. Is it probable that under any new dis- pensation it will be possible to find better guarantees for the preservation of peace and for the maintenance of the honour and dignity of England than those which can be secured by following the example set by Lord Lyons, and by respecting the traditions which be has bequeathed to his successors ? Assuredly not. In spite of the advance of democracy, diplo- macy " of the old type " still holds the field, and it will be an evil day for England when its practices and methods are