Lord Cecil's Gospel
The Way of Peace. By. Viscount Cecil. (Philip Allan. 12s. 6d.) I HAVE sat in four Cabinets," observes Lord Cecil of Chelwood in one of the papers brought together in this opportune volume. He might have added without irrelevance that he hid resigned from two of them—though that would have been to anticipate a little, since the second resignation was still to come when these particular words were written. That record qualifies Lord Cecil to discuss with some authority the problem which must of necessity present itself constantly, and ought perhaps to present itself more constantly still, to public men,— at what point does resignation become a matter of honour ? No one has ever doubted that it was a matter of honour with the writer himself. The only question asked regarding him was whether he was not in fact too sensitive to pricks of con- science for a statesman with the exigencies of modern political life to face. Whatever may be thought about that, the position of Lord Cecil and many other men who have had to make vital decisions at what they felt was a parting of the ways will be better and more sympathetically understood when the dispassionate and discerning discussion of the
problem in his paper on " The Party System " has been read and considered.
If that paper (written in 1925) answers in large measure the common question, why did Lord Cecil resign from the Cabinet in 1927, another page, in an introductory chapter, should filially dispel the perplexities of students of one side of Lord Cecil's character who ask why he does not " come right out " and call himself a Liberal. The answer is, of course, that he happens to be a Conservative. If anyone doubts that let him read three or four sentences introduced, not as a confession DE faith, but simply to illustrate an impersonal argument. " I still hold," runs the declaration, " that Home Rule was not the best solution of the Irish question, and that the religious grievances of Wales could have been met without transferring endowments from sacred to secular purposes. I am still unconvinced of the wisdom of the Budget of 1910 and of the Parliament Act. Nor can I see that a ease has been made out for far-reaching fiscal change." Such is Lord Cecil's creed in 1928.. - • ;But; as.might.be expected, the main topic of this, volume is not domesticpolitics. ‘4 The noble Lord," said Mr. Devlin once-in the House of CommOils; " has one foot in the Middle Ages and the other in the League-of Nations." There is in fact. nothing very mediaeval in the outlook here revealed—unless,' indeed, 'Conservatism itself is to be considered as a stereo. typed survival of the past, as Lord Cecil shows good reason for not considering it—and there is something very modern and onward-looking in every sentence devoted to the League of Nations and international peace. Lord Cecil's part in the forming of the Covenant has been emphasized as it should be , in Dr. David Hunter Miller's recent magnum opus on the genesis of the League, and it is a tragic irony that so far as can be foreseen his resignation, of last year closes the door on any hope of his return to Geneva as a British delegate. But the future of the League of Nations depends less on what delegates may do at Geneva than on what common men and women may say and think about the League in the countries where they live. Stimulus and guidance given to public opinion in speech and writing may count for more in the end's. than oratory on the Assembly platform or wise suggestion at the Council table. And both stimulus and guidance are here.'
Lord Cecil is a man whose personality is calculated to affect his contemporaries according to their temperaments, provoking' some to criticism, others—and the majority—to admiration.' This selection from his speeches and writings has been wisely made to reveal him as he is. On particular points both critics and admirers will doubtless feel themselves confirmed in their judgment. But both alike, if animated by common honesty,' will recognize that there stands disclosed in these pages a man who more than most has enriched the public life of England by bringing it not merely ability but character.