19 MAY 1917, Page 6


NO one who bears in mind the events of that annus.mira- bilis of revolution, the year 1848, needs to be told that revolution has something infectious in it. Having appeared in an acute form in one country, it becomes epidemic. In 1848 there was scarcely a country in Europe that was not convulsed. Even in starched Prussia the King was forced to humble himself before a Berlin mob, to do a kind of obeisance before the corpses of citizens killed in the rioting, and to promise a Constitution—a promise which was charac- teristically evaded. So now, revolution is in the air. Intense sympathy with the great revolution in Russia has caused almost insensibly the reading of a new, or at all events a more highly emphasized, motive into the war. We hear it said on all sides that the war is a war for democracy ' • that it is against autocracy and Kings ; that it must be finally proved that the popular will is able to prevail over personal caprice all over the world. With all this, so far as it goes— for it is not a full statement of the objects of the war—we most heartily agree. There never was a moment during the war when we should not have said that the principle of popular will, as against the irresponsibility of autocrats or oligarchies, was one of the most obvious and important, indeed the chief, of all the issues at stake. But now that the downfall of the historic Monarchy in Russia gives a sharp point to the allegations about the wicked irresponsibility of Kings there is a tendency for people who have what Henry Sidgwick once called " cross-country minds "—minds which lightly fly over obstacles in reaching a desired conclusion—to group all monarchies together. Their argument runs that the nations will never be safe from war till Kings disappear, since Kings and not peoples make war. If it be said that there are Kings and Kings, these " cross-country " people answer that the reignina° monarchs form a kind of endless cousinship, and that they are bound to stand together in order to protect their profession. Why do they never denounce one another ? it is asked. To be specific, why has King George never denounced the German Emperor ? We referred last week to the argument of a British miner who assumed that after the war the King would probably feel that it was his duty as a member of a close corporation to shield the person and protect the rights of the German Emperor. We imagine that in the present revolutionary infection there is a certain amount of this kind of talk. So far as it exists, it is probably encouraged rather than miti- gated by such questions as Mr. H. G. Wells, posing as a popular prophet, places before his readers as to the future of the British Monarchy. In an article in the Penny Pictorial of May 19th Mr. Wells gives a lurid account of the growth of the close corporation of monarchy. He says incidentally that Queen Victoria and the Tsar professed to be " the heads of religion upon earth." If Mr. Wells remembered the history he has doubtless read, he would know that a British Sovereign professes no more and no less herdship of religion than the British people requires him to profess. He says, again, that Greece, the 'motherland of Republics, was handed over to " a needy scion of the Danish Royal Family." As a matter of fact, the Greek people them- selves expressed a wish to have a government modelled on the British Constitution. That involved a Constitutional Monarch. Britain would actually have supplied them with a King as well as with a model if their original suggestion had been acted upon. Mr. Wells, however, draws (as he could not very well help doing) a distinction between the British Monarchy and others. He then proceeds to ask if the British Monarchy, having admittedly a better chance of survival than other monarchies, can arrive at something like an assurance of survival. He lays down conditions : (1) The British Monarchy must sever itself definitely from the German dynastic system. (2) Non-German marriages are desirable. (3) Ex-Monarchs should not be given rights of asylum here, as their presence would cause misunderstanding and intrigue.

What Mr. Wells forgets is that if the King acted on his own initiative in making any dramatic denunciation of the Hohenzollern dynasty he would be doing exactly what all anti-monarchists, and indeed all Constitutionalists, object to. He would be acting on his own personal judgment. Those who did not approve of that judgment would call it caprice. Tho border-line between an act of good judgment and an act of caprice is very shadowy. It cannot be safely left to be delimited by a single brain. When we read a great deal of the criticism launched against the management of the war we sometimes rub our eyes and ask ourselves : Are we, or are we not, fighting with Allies ? We read line upon line and chapter upon chapter of criticism without discovering any- where a hint or suggestion that in an Alliance it is impossible to act without consent. We are continually being told that the King could do this, or the Prime Minister could do that, without a word about the wishes or feelings of France, or Italy, or Russia, or Serbia, or Japan, or the United States. Our own hopes are that the Hohenzollerns will be placed under a ban, as Napoleon was placed, and that the Allies will deal with the German people alone. The Germans themselves have given us a precedent for the procedure when they refused to treat with Gambetta. We go further, and we hope that in some Royal Proclamation, or other instrument with the Royal signature attached, King George will express his detestation of the infamous methods for which the German Emperor has made himself responsible. That the King would be ready to denounce the Kaiser's record from the bottom of his heart we are absolutely convinced. We speak without precise evidence, of course, but we were never more sure of anything than that the last thing the King would wish to do would be to shelter the Kaiser. If we may judge from the utterly different practices and temper and character of the two monarchs, there could not be a more hateful example of kingship to King George than that dis- played at Berlin. Even if the King wished after the war to fraternize with the Kaiser—to us as impossible a supposi- tion as that the Lord Chief Justice would want to hobnob with a murderer—he would feel himself absolutely compelled to abide by the advice of his Ministers and the wishes of his people.

The King has always been a scrupulously Constitutional ruler. It will be remembered that during the crisis of the Parliament Act many extremists wanted the King to interpose a veto, but the King acted in the strictest sense on the advice of. his Ministers. Had he not done so, it might conceivably be said now that he was capable of acting on caprice. As it is, we are thankful to say that there cannot be a shadow of excuse for making that suggestion. Again, those who so foolishly imagine that the King will want to shield the Kaiser must make very little allowance for the King's filial piety. They must assume that the most resounding success of King Edward VII. counts for nothing in the thoughts of King George. To us such an assumption is ridiculous. King Edward's great diplomatic• triumph was to interpret the wishes of his Ministers in drawing this country into an intimate connexion with a Republic and drawing it further away from an autocracy.

In some directions one hears it said that the democratic orientation of the war must be given a Republican tinge by the adhesion of the United States. Instructed Americans, we are sure, cannot believe this, because they do not confuse democracy with Republicanism. They know that ever since 1688 the British people have been an established Republic in spirit without ever looking back. They know that, as a matter of fact, the King has much less power than the President of. the United States—see how Mr. Wilson held the issue of peace and war in his own hands—and they know that the House of Lords has less political power than their own Senate. With its almost absolute control over treaty-making, the Senate is one of the strongest Upper Houses in the world. In Britain popular control—that is to say, democracy— is as complete as in any country, and that fact cannot be affected by the nature of the appointment of him who presides Over all. Whether the supreme Head holds an hereditary office and has chiefly a ceremonial pOwer, like our King, or whether he is elected and has a great deal of actual political power, like the President of the United States, does not matter if the essence of democracy be there, though of course we personally prefer our own plan. One wonders sometimes if people who confusedly think that what is nominally a monarchy cannot really be a democracy remember the wording of the Act of Settlement. The Act lays down such precise conditions for the kingship of Britain that, from the point of view of popular choice, one may almost compare an accession to the British Throne with an election to the American Presidency. We have our rules and Americans have theirs.

By the Act of Settlement, in default of issue to either William or Anne, the crown was to pass to the Most Excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the heirs of her body being Protestants." It is laid down, among other things, that a British Sovereign must join in communion with the Church of England as by law established, and that if the Sovereign be not a native of Britain he cannot engage in war, except for the defence of British territory, without the consent of Parliament. But the proof that a British Sovereign is in no parodoxical sense the choice of the British people, and not an autocrat imposed on the people through their own superstition or folly, is to be found in the very curious history of the Bill of Rights. This wonderful charter of popular liberties, written when the memories of James II.'s misrule were still bitter among statesmen, is an instruction to the Monarch as to what he may do and may not do. It settled the crown on the Prince and Princess of Orange ; but in the absence of a. Sovereign the Parliament which drew up the Bill of Rights was self- appointed. It was afterwards proposed that the Acts of this Parliament—i.e., the Convention Parliament—should be re-enacted by its successor, and its position be " regularized. by a Parliament which had. been duly summoned by Royal Writs. But the authors of the Bill of Rights resolutely refused all such attempts to treat them as not a true Perlis. meat. As Lord Somers insisted, they had done nothing irregular, nothing for which they needed to be excused. In fine, the authority of British Kings is the choice of the people and nothing else.

Experience has shown that the hereditary headship of our crowned Republic has a symbolical value that is of inestimable worth in the ruling of a wide, scattered, and various Empire. The throne is a common possession. It is enthusiastically accepted by men of the Dominions—good democrats all of them—who would be very slow to accept, if they would ever accept at all, an elected Head of the whole Empire. Half- educated native races yield homage and loyalty to an heredi- tary King, but would have no idea of treating a bidder for votes with the same respect. We trust that all who are conscious of the epidemic of restlessness and change will weigh well the reasons which have securely established the British Throne for three generations. We have great respect for Republicans who have convinced themselves logically, but none for those who confusedly imagine that a Republic is necessarily a better democracy than our Constitutional Monarchy, or that a Constitutional Monarchy has anything to do with the wanton making of wars. One grievance lately expressed is that, though there was a solemn service at St. Paul's to invoke blessings on the union with the United States, there was none to celebrate the Russian Revolution. But Russia was already our Ally. Her assistance was no new thing, and her continuous loyalty to the common cause of humanity was presumed. There was no lack of sympathy. We are certain of that. For the rest, is it a very " monarchical " act to hold a service of an unprecedented importance in honour of union with a Republic ? We should have thought not. But the trouble is that people infected with unrest do not think reasonably.