TOPICS OF THE DAY.
SIR EDWARD GREY'S TRIUMPH.
WHEN we wrote last week we expressed our confidence that Sir Edward Grey would emerge victorious from the attacks made upon his conduct of Foreign Affairs by the Radical section of the supporters of the Govern- ment. His defence of his action and his complete proof that he behaved in the late crisis as he has always be- haved, namely, as the true friend of peace, were conclu- sive. No attempt, indeed, was made to controvert his statement. Possibly one may be made when the adjourned debate is resumed, but as far as Monday was concerned it can only be said that the case against him collapsed altogether, not because of any rhetorical or dialectical ingenuity on the part of the Foreign Secretary, but because he told a plain story which could not be gain- said. In the abstract and without reference to the facts it is easy enough to show how wicked it is to oppose Germany or to encourage " the fire-eaters of France " not to acquiesce in the beneficent policy of their mighty neigh- bour. When the facts are stated, and as long as people keep them in memory, the vindication of the Government's action is as easy as the repetition of the alphabet. As Mr. Boner Law wisely said, there are no " inevitable wars," but the course pursued by the Government was inevitable if they were to remain efficient friends of peace and not to make war certain by shutting their eyes and talking about olive branches and the wickedness of provoking men to bloodshed.
Once more we would advise our readers to ask them- selves what is the cause of the present tension, and how it comes about that our relations with Germany are so unsatisfactory. To be as concrete as possible, they should inquire how it is that German opinion is so deeply dis- appointed, as it clearly is, by Sir Edward Grey's speech. Our relations with Germany are unsatisfactory because we will not do what Germany wants. What is it that Germany wants ? She wants us to abandon our entente with France, to discontinue standing by France and sup- porting her, and instead to allow Germany to deal with France as she (Germany) thinks fit. What does this mean translated into action ? It means nothing more nor less than that Germany considers friendliness to France to be an act of hostility towards her, and that those who stubbornly refuse to admit this are "hemming Germany in." If we support France then we are told " Thou art not Caesar's friend," and must take the con- sequences. Germany cannot and will not allow us to do what she calls making a party with France and Russia against her. When Sir Edward Grey quietly states that we cannot admit that showing friendship for France is per se an act of hostility towards Germany the aggressive part of the German Press in effect shouts back : " Did we not always say that the British Government are inspired with a deadly animosity towards the Fatherland ? " We are bound to say that we have had plenty of warning that this was the attitude of Germany and that she could not and would not tolerate our coming to an understanding with France. The people in this country are unfortunately so much engrossed with home affairs that they forget every incident in international relations which is not three weeks old. If, however, they could be induced to turn their thoughts back to what happened in the summer before the meeting of the .Algeciras Conference—that is, in the summer of 1905—they might remember that Germany made a vehement attempt to break down the entente cordiale at the very beginning, and gave us warning that friendship with France would be considered by them to be hostility towards Germany. During that summer—the summer when M. Delcasse was offered as a sacrifice, unsuccessful as it turned out, to appease German enmity—it is an open secret that German emissaries were sent to Paris, and were told to explain unofficially to France the consequences of an tents with us. If you and Britain," they said in effect, " come together and withstand or hem in Germany you will have to take the consequences. The first of those consequences will be that France will have to pay the bill. Germany, owing to Britain's command of the sea, will not be able to get at Britain, but she can get at France, and must and will force her to bear the brunt of Germany's just anger at the attempt to rob her of her rights in the community of nations. Britain may no doubt be the real offender, but we must strike where we can rather than where we would. France is open to our arms if Britain is not." Happily this attempt to bully France out of the entente did not succeed. We stood by France, and France found that the German threats were bluff, or at any rate could not be made good. But though the German coup failed, Germany was, naturally enough per- haps, unappeased. She built her ships and bided her time till another opportunity offered to break down the entente. It appeared to have come last summer, and the ' Panther' was sent to Agadir. No one seriously believes that Germany was anxious about her nationals or really acted solely with the view of protecting German lives and property in Morocco. What Germany wanted to do was once more to drive a wedge between us and France. In the opinion of her diplomatists, if a well-chosen occasion could be seized for bullying France, i.e., one when Britain would not stand by her, then either France could be taken singly and overwhelmed, or else, what was more likely, could be forced to yield to German pressure, and so humiliated before the whole world. Then the entente would have disappeared. It could be pointed out to France, smarting from the Teutonic rods, that perfidious Albion had failed her at the critical moment, and that now the path of safety was to work with Germany, who indeed had been cruel only to be kind, and was ready to turn from the sternest of foes to the most generous of friends. By joining forces with Germany, France would also be told that she would be able to revenge herself upon a Power , that had deserted her in her hour of need. The entente thus broken up, and France converted from a friend of Britain into an enemy, or at any rate into a morose neutral, Germany would have been able to turn her un- divided attention to us—could have dealt with us in isolation.
To most of our readers it will no doubt seem incredible that the ruling men in Germany should have contemplated so crude a line of policy. Yet such we believe to be the fact. The evidence, as far as we can see, bears no other interpre- tation. The German Government during the summer came to the conclusion that public opinion here, or at any rate public opinion in the Liberal Party, had veered so much • towards Germany that there was no likelihood of our sup- porting France if the situation in Morocco were made the occasion for putting pressure upon her. The Liberal Government, they argued, will never dare to stand by the French if it can be represented that such action would merely mean helping France to conquer Morocco. Happily, the German view was based upon an entire . miscalculation. Our Cabinet, in spite of the fact that so many of its members are most sincerely anxious to be as friendly as they can towards Germany, were abso- lutely solid in their support of France. To their very great credit, Mr. Lloyd George and what we may call his section of the Cabinet were as firm as Sir Edward Grey and the Prime Minister. By means of Mr. Lloyd George's speech, they soon let the Germans know in the most emphatic manner possible that they must not count upon any help from the Liberals. The German attempt to break down the entente through the action of the Panther ' proved in fact a complete and absolute failure. The pro- German section of the Cabinet showed themselves, as every Englishman was sure they would, as incapable as the pro-French section of cutting the rope that binds us to France. The solidarity in honour and sane policy exhibited by our Government naturally placed the Germans in a position of considerable difficulty. They might not have objected to war with an isolated France. The last thing they wanted was war with the Triple Entente, and accord- ingly they put their pride in their pocket and made the best terms they could with France—terms which we did nothing to render more disagreeable to Germany than the facts obliged. There was no attempt here to do anything but let Germany down as easily as possible. She had "put her head into 'Chancery," but we wisely made no effort to punish her before she was released.
The moment, however, that the Germans had freed them- selves from the embarrassing situation caused by their action at Agadir they turned round upon us and, with a persistency magnificent in its boldness, focussed their whole energies upon an attempt to show how recklessly and wickedly anti-German had been the policy of the British Government. " What have we done to deserve such hostility at your hands ? " went up the cry from Germany. " Why will you not be friends with those who are only too anxious to live at peace with you ? Why run the risk of the most terrible of struggles merely to show your hatred of Germany and of all things German ? " In other words, the German Government, copying Bis- marck's traditional policy of influencing public opinion abroad by protestations however remote from fact, and calculating on the tender spot in the English national conscience—its very natural and proper love of peace in the abstract and also its very natural and proper liking for the Germans as a people—made a pathetic appeal to the British nation not to go on stabbing them in the back. The appeal was most moving. The only flaw was that we had never attempted to stab them in the back. What they called stabbing in the back was merely the determina- tion to keep our obligations of honour with France and to refuse to allow her to be first isolated and then destroyed. That was really Sir Edward Grey's answer. We are accused of hostility and unfriendliness ; but when the facts are examined it can be shown that there has been no hostility and no unfriendliness to Germany—unless, of course, friendliness to France and also mindfulness of our own special interests are to be called acts of hostility and unfriendliness.
The moral of the whole incident is this ; If Germany persists in effect in declaring that friendliness to France means hostility to her, then hostility there will be and must be. If, however, Germany will recognize that friendliness to France and the determination to prevent her from bring first isolated and then overwhelmed do not constitute hos- tility to Germany, then our relations with Germany can at once be improved and set upon a sure and sound founda- tion. There is plenty of room for a friendly understanding with Germany as long as it does not involve the abandon- ment of France. Remember, too, that France has never attempted to copy Germany's attitude and to say in effect that we must choose between her and Germany, and that friendliness to her can only be proved by hostility to Germany. Neither the French Government nor the French Press has ever dreamt of taking such a line. France, indeed, as a, Power specially desirous of peace, has if anything been too anxious to show that the entente is essentially pacific.
A proper understanding of all the facts of the case will show that Sir Edward Grey has been the best friend of Germany, meaning by Germany not the German Govern- ment but the German people. We do not believe that the German people want war, either with France or with us. But by supporting France in the loyal way Sir Edward Grey and his colleagues did, Germany was in fact saved from a war to which the reckless action of the German Government was directly tending. It was only by our Government resolutely refusing to yield to the specious plea which was forced upon them by the German Govern- ment—the plea that the bullying of France over Morocco was no concern of ours—and which, strange as it may seem, was endorsed by the so-called men of peace on this side, that a terrible catastrophe was avoided.