TOPICS OF THE DAY.
BRITAIN AND AMERICA. THE dinner of welcome to the new American Ambassador may well prove one of the milestones in the history of the English race. In form it appeared little more than a very warm welcome to the representative of the other branch of the English-speaking peoples— appropriate, no doubt, to the state of world politics at the moment, but differing rather in degree than in kind from previous gatherings of a similar kind. If, however, the speech of Colonel Harvey is examined with the care which it demands, it will be seen that the occasion was in the true and not in the mere cant sense epoch-making. In writing of Colonel Harvey's appointment a fortnight ago we ventured to prophesy two things. One was that he would speak to us quite plainly and directly as an American through and through—an American undiluted in birth, breeding, or personality. The other was that he would not be content with being the passive mouthpiece of his Government or with a " carry-on " policy. By this we did not mean that he would have a policy contrary to that of the American Government, but that he would not have taken the post unless he had been sure that the President of the United States had a definite and an active policy as regards this country, and that he meant to carry it into execution. Finally, Colonel Harvey was satisfied that that policy was in accordance with his own view of what was first and last and always best for America. That it would be also best for Britain was something in the eyes of the Envoy as well as of the President which not only did not detract from it but greatly buttressed and strengthened it. The Ambassador s speech, while fulfilling those two prophecies, showed us quite clearly what the President , wants, what the American Envoy wants, and what they both mean to get. The best way to prove our assertion is to quote the operative passages from Colonel Harvey's speech. After speaking of his duty to maintain the existing cordial relations between the two countries, Colonel Harvey went on :— - " I shall fail miserably in my mission, to the grievous disap- pointment of my chief, if I do not so greatly strengthen those bonds of friendship and mutual helpfulness that hereafter our respective Governments will not only prefer durable agreements to tentative compromise as between themselves, but will in- stinctively approach all world problems from the same angle as of common and inseparable (*mem. Surely the realization of this plain purpose would constitute a long step in the direction of the perfect understanding .which would be bound to follow. No less surely, moreover, does that realization appear attainable when, as I rejoice to testify of my own knowledge, King and President see eye to eye and sense the yearnings of the peoples to whose service their lives are proudly dedicated.
. . . . . • Nothing could be more futile, more delusive, or moro mischievous than to pretend that, however deep and true may be our affection for the Mother Country, our proffer of a helping hand is attributable primarily to a tender susceptibility. It is not. My country stands ready to work with yours, first, because it is to her own interest to do so, and, secondly, because it is to the advantage of both.
. • • • • • It is not the past, not even the future, that concerns us at the moment ; it is the sentient, perilous present. So let us, as prudent minds, first ask, not what are the prospects, but where do we stand ? A few fundamentals on behalf of my own country I can set forth plainly. One of prime importance is this : For years and years I have heard proclaimed at stated intervals that war between Great Britain and the United States had ceased to be conceivable. Never have I known the declaration to be denied general approbation. And yet it is quite clear that what is alleged to be a fact is no more than an assumption. No resumption of armed conflict is unimaginable. Any day ay
witness renewal of the Wars of the Roses ; any day the c of the blue and the grey in the swamps of Virginia ; but so unlikely uke
are such happenings that the suggestion, even though incredibly made, would evoke no more than a derisive smile. But it is one thing to stamp constantly upon an absurd notion, and quite another never to think of it at all. Now the question arises : Have not our respective countries reached a point, with respect to the remotest possibility of conflict, that justifies our forgetting it as completely as the battles of Bosworth Field and Appomatox have faded out of recollection ? Such, at any rate, I am proud and happy to report faithfully, in the teeth of all the mischief -makers and scandalmongers of both nations, has become the settled conviction of our people, and, I hope and doubt not, of yours. If so, who can reckon the value of the final removal of this barrier against potential, though not, of course, political amalgamation of these two mighty forces, in part at least civilized, and in whole assuredly civilizing ? "
That was excellent, but the American Ambassador was not content with generalities. He also told his hearers quite plainly that we shall get nowhere until we put aside the academic discussion of theoretical proposals and manfully face realities. "We must realize that the time has come to practise what we have been preaching, and to demonstrate our fidelity by our acts." He further declared, and this we believe is of excellent omen, that the Government in America was "both willing and ready" to proceed to action. Finally, he made a specific reference to a line of policy which cannot fail to interest the readers of the Spectator. We pointed out the other week that to establish a really good and permanent understanding with America in the matter of naval power there ought to be a well. considered and comprehensive division in the matter of the world's waters. Let America be responsible for all that goes with the phrase "the command of the sea in the Pacific," while we should have a similar responsibility in the Atlantic. Then each Power would know where it stood and what its individual responsibilities were. Here are Colonel Harvey's words :— "Already, within little more than two months of authority, it [the American Government] has advanced a clear and explicit proposal designed to resolve the most vexatious problem of communication through thp Pacific."
In matters which touched European affairs the President, said the Ambassador, was prudent but he was strong. Had he not said, "We must play our full part in joining the peoples of the world in the pursuit of peace" ? This, of course, did not mean that he was going to be "an international meddler," but it did mean that he (Colonel Harvey) was "authorized and directed" in the event of a meeting of the Supreme Council being held to consider the Silesian proposition to represent in that meeting the President of the United States. It is true that Colonel Harvey went on to say with plainness, and with a special emphasis, that the United States had decided once and for all that she will not have "anything whatsoever to do with the League of Nations or with any commission or committee appointed by it or responsible to it, directly or indirectly, openly or furtively." If these words had stood by themselves, hasty hearers or readers of the speech might have assumed that this refusal to have anything to do with the politics of Europe involved aloofness from the nation which we rejoice to find that Colonel Harvey, following the President of the United States, calls "the Mother Country." Happily, however, the passage following it shows that there was no intention to leave the Mother Country in the cold. On the contrary, an exception was made in her case, which strongly emphasized the fact that America's foreign policy is to be based upon the recognition of the common interests of the whole English-speaking kin, though not because this is— from the American point of view—to the advantage of Britain, but because it is to the advantage of America. And here let us say that we are delighted that Colonel Harvey has made it so abundantly clear that the new American policy is not a policy of doles, moral or political, to England out of love and affection, not a sentimental preference based on blood being thicker than water, not an eleemosynary diplomacy. The British people will infinitely prefer that it should be based upon the much more permanent basis of mutual help. We are not too proud to be helped by the daughter country, but we know that nothing permanent can be established except upon a basis of equality and of reciprocal esteem and respect. We do not want a gift from America, but an exchange of benefits, remembering always that an exchange is not a victory for one side or the other, but a union of forces. The true spirit was admirably, set forth in the final passage of Colonel Harvey's speech—a passage which also we must quote verbatim, for Colonel Harvey is a man who does not waste words and whose speeches cannot be summarized :— " As the Baying runs in the States, I have come to confese and not to brag. And my first confession is that I am too sill to flatter this Mother Country of ours. The mere attempt would embarrass, me from its presumptuousness. Ri?therf would I say of the United Kingdom as Daniel Webster said 0. Massachusetts, There she is; • behold her, and judge for rallrt selves.' Nor in withholding flattery from your land would • seek it for my-own. We, too, are beginning to feel in modest fashion that blandishments contribute little to our satisfaction. Time was undeniably when John Bull appeared to us, rightly or wrongly, as perhaps a trifle arrogant, while simultaneously Uncle Sam crossed your vision, if at all, as a whittling vulgarian. But half a century has wrought a wondrous change. The grotesque caricatures have passed into relative oblivion, and in their places now gleam in personification of our splendid nations the beautiful figures of Britannia and Columbia, hand in hand, side by side, erect and glorious, upon a plane of perfect equality in the eyes of each other and of all the world. So we would have them to stand for ever."
Colonel Harvey could not have chosen words which would better represent what we have always regarded as the essential matter in the relations between Britain and America. The two nations must learn to acknowledge openly and freely what they already acknowledge at heart and subconsciously. The relations between them are not, and never can be, those of foreign countries. Always, for good or evil, they must be different from such foreign relations not merely in degree but in kind. Their relations are like ;hose which in ancient times all the Hellenic States of the Mediterranean felt for each other, even though they divided into separate and even warring communities. They recognized that no Greek was or ever could be a foreigner to 'any other Greek. The plain and ordinary citizen in England has always instinctively felt this prime distinction. Witness the amusing but luci- ferous story of the house agent who explained to his American client that the clause in the lease forbidding the letting of the house to a foreigner could not by any possi- bility be so construed as to include an American. That doesn't mean you, sir." Another example of this in- stinctive feeling is to be found in the remark so often made in England, "Of course war with America would be civil war."
We are not going to be so foolish as to assume that the saying that war with America would be civil war shows that such civil war can never happen. We know, as does Colonel Harvey, that it can. What it does mean, and this at the moment is of vital import, is that the relations between England and America form a foundation upon which something great can be built, something which will not only make civil war practically impossible, but will greatly help to maintain peace throughout the civilized world. There is an Arab proverb which runs "land my cousin fight with each other, but I, my brother, and my cousin stand together against the world." That was a motto for times when fighting was not only the last argu- ment, but the first. In our day, let us hope that standing up against the world will mean helping it to straighten out its tangles.
The first international function performed by the new Government in America is certainly of good omen in this respect. President Harding has not waited to be called in to redress the balance of the Old World. He has willingly and, in the old legal phraseology, "of his own mere notion" come into the Supreme Council in order to trim that sadly " rocking " boat, and to prevent a dispute amongst the crew as to the exact way in which the Silesian cargo shall be distributed, thus endangering her stability. It may well be that in doing that the President has done as practical a piece of work in the cause of peace as has ever been accomplished.