THE ASSASSIN'S LEGACY
IT is not surprising that the first word that rose to thousands of lips when the news of the tragedy at Marseilles was made known on Tuesday Was Serajevo. The fact that the blow was dealt at the son of the king who ruled Servia at the date of the Serajevo outrage was enough in itself to suggest the sinister parallel, and it lurked in the mind; till the nationality of the assassin appeared to be established. Of ii crime so• dastardly and foul there is little to be said with profit: One at least of the ' victims, King Alexander, risked such a fate daily, knowing that when any political fanatic can get accesS to firearms not the most elaborate arrangemerits for the' protection' of distinguished per: sonages can ensure them eoniplete security. If there is room for some surprise that so cosmopolitan a city as Marseilles should have been chosen as the Jugoslav king's port of landing, and that the assassin should have been able to gain the footboard of his car unhindered, that is not to suggest that the danger would have been averted by fuller precautions, 'though the attempt might have been made More difficult and its success less' certain. Its success actually was 'far more complete than its author can ever have intended, for there is no' reason to supp-ose that as a Croat he had any animus against M. Bartliou, and it was by the 'chance of a mad discharge that the same weapon robbed Jugoslavia of her sovereign and France of her Foreign Minister. - The crime will have inevitable consequences for Jugo- slavia, for France and for the world. The least of them is that it shatters the confident hope that the visit of King Alexander to Paris this month, and of M. Barthou to .11on-re next month, would establish a new and more cordial relationship between France and Italy on the one hand and Italy and Jugoslavia on the other. That development, so essential for the creation of confidence in Europe, must be delaYed. France can replace her Foreign Minister, as she would have &Me. if M. Barthou had died of a fatal illness. By next. week the vacancy at the Quai d'Orsay will no doubt be filled. . But on the Jugoslav side negotiations will be far less easy. The King was, in effect, the Government, and Europe has been given a tragie illustration, from which. it May possibly draw some salutary lessons, of .what the sudden disappearance Of a dictator in whose hands all power is centralized may mean. But government goes on. Jugoslavia had one, king on Tuesday. She has another today. And though the _ prerogatives of the boy-sovereign must be exercised for some years by a Regency Connell that in no way prevents Cabinet government from functioning. There is a Foreign Minister in office. He accompanied King Alex- ander to Sofia last month arid would have been with hini in Paris at this moment but for Tuesday's tragedy. If the spirit of rapprochement exists. the Means of giving it practical expression are still available. - But it remains first to be discovered what effect the transition from a dictatorship to a regency will have in Jugoslavia itself. The fact—or belief—that the assassin was a Croat is capable of arousing almost as much emotion in Belgrade as if . he had been an Italian. If the cleavage between the dominant -Serbs and the dis- satisfied Croatian autonomists 'is driven deeper still . an attempt by the latter to :seize by a coup de main the autonomy- which Belgrade has always refused to grant. is possible. Therein lies the real danger of external coin- plications. On the face of it there need be no parallel between the Serajevo bombs and the Marseilles bullets, for there is no reason for' believing- that any foreign . . Power was concerned directly or indirectly in Tuesday's assassination. But a Jugoslavia weakened by new internal dissensions would be as great a danger to European peaie as 'a weakened Austria already is today. It would be equally the ViCtini of rival Gerinan and Italian influences, and its relation to its fellow-inembers of the Little Ententewould be uncertain. But there is no ground So. far for' faking that Pessimistic view of Jugoslavia's future. The situation may well take a better turn.- A unanimous and sincere repudiation of the Marseilles crime by the Croatian people 'would tend to close a breach instead Of Opening, it wider. The fact that two of the three members of the Regency Council nomi- nated in King Alexander's will are Croats is significant and may be of good omen—though. not necessarily so, since their loyalty to Belgrade 'leaves them suspect by their own people. . And Prince Paul, the king's cousin, who is likely to be the chief figure in the kingdom dining the new sovereign's minority, is 'a man of broad Outlook in whom responsibility may develop . a • strength of character equal to -the demands the situation will make on him.
But whatever happens in Jugoslavia itself the stability of South-East Europe depends mainly on two men, Signor Mussolini and M. Barthou's still unknown suc- cessor. About the desire of any French Foreign Minister for a detente between Italy and Jugoslavia there call be no question, and Signor. Mussolini's speech at Milan last Saturday included a significant and welcome refer- ence to a possible agreement With the Jugoslav State. The Marseilles murder, it may be hoped (in spite of one or two disquieting outbursts), means a truce, if not a final end, to the senseless and criminal Press polemics that have been artificially embittering. relations between the two Adriatic . States for the last. month: The Italian papers have already changed their tone. Sentiment, moreover, 'counts for something even in politics, and in Rome as elsewhere there will be an instinctive desire to press forward the work of .pacification on which the dead King and the dead Minister. were intent to the last. Mid on the French aide M. Barthou's successor, whoever he may be, can be counted on to make it his first task to take up the threads of the negotia- tions where they were snapped on Tuesday.
The new Foreign Minister can hardly hope to succeed if he comes to his task with little or no . experience of international negotiations and no more than an average layman's knowledge of the European situation generally. France needs no advice on the new appoint- ment, and, as so often, considerations. of internal politics may in some degree limit M. Dmunergue's freedom of choice. From the European point of view the obvious successor to . M. Barthou would .seem to be M. Herriot. He has been Foreign Minister more than once ; he is familiar personally with many of the European statesmen with whom he would have to deal ; he is himself a European in the Briand tradition ; and in the case. of Russia in particular he is the natural inheritor of M. Barthou's policy. France's close relationship with Jugoslavia, and the continuing tension between that country and Italy, make the situation one of peculiar delicacy, as no one realized better than M. Barthou himself. But if by the good sense of its people and the wisdom of the Regency Council Jugoslavia can avoid the twin dangers of disruption and a military dictatorship M. Barthou's work may yet be carried through to the desired conclusion.