2 JANUARY 1932, Page 25

Lord Salisbury

Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury. Vol. 111, 1887-1892. By Gwendolen Cecil. (Hodder and Stoughton. 21s.) LADY GWF-NDOLEN CECIL'S fourth volume has not quite the play of affectionate humOur for which she found ample scope in her third volume, but it is the most important which she has written. The bare facts, without the help of any partiality of which she may be suspected, triumphantly save Lord Salisbury from the reproach that he was a Jingo. It is strange how far party spirit was successful in the 'eighties in creating among Liberals a devout conviction that Lord Salisbury was con- tinually playing with thoughts of war.

Lord Salisbury's business was to preserve the Balance of Power, and he did this with a very earnest desire for peace and with umnistakable skill. He labels himself in one memo- randum as a " good European "—a role of which it never occurred to the Liberals to suspect him-. A generation has since grown up which is in the habit of saying that the very idea of a Balance of Power was unworthy of rational men and was bound to cause war. As war did result the proof of per- versity and incompetence is regarded as complete. It is for- gotten that international relations are subject to that evolu- tionary process which is the law of all other growth. After the Napoleonic Wars the Emperor of Russia, appalled by the insane slaughter and chaos, projected his plan of perpetual peace, and it was only because that plan developed into a hideous engine of oppression—striking in the name of peace at every head which dared to raise itself in protest—that even the most peaceful statesmen were thrown back upon the Balance as at least a juster method. All that can be said about Lord Salisbury—but it can be said with complete truth —is that he used the instrument which was ready to his hand like a Christian gentleman.

We are happy to-day in having the League of Nations Instead of the Balance of Power, but Lord Salisbury was by no means without a forward-looking spirit. Let us quote from a speech which he delivered on April 11th, 1888 : " I must add that what I call my neighbourly view of foreign polities extends beyond the mere controversies or disputes we may have with our neighbours. Wo must not only deal with them in a spirit of goodwill, recognizing the necessity of concessions on the one side or the other, but we must also recognize that the members of every community have duties towards each other. We are We of what has been well called the federation of man- kind.' Wo belong to a great community of nations and we have

no right to shrink from the duties which the interests of the community impose upon us. There is all the difference in tho world between good-natured, good-humoured effort to keep well with your neighbours and that spirit of haughty and sullen isola- tion which has been dignified by the name of ' non-intervention.' We are part of the community of Europe and we must do our duty as such."

During the six years covered by this volume the Continental Powers were angling for the favour of. Great Britain. France tried to frighten her into acquiescence. She did this by innumerable pin-pricks all over the world. Lord Salisbury became so restive under the treatment that he declared that Great Britain had never understood France and never could. As a consequence he inclined towards the Central Powers— the exact reverse of what France wanted. It is true that lie did not go so far as even to contemplate an alliance with Germany, but he became distinctly more tolerant of her methods than he might otherwise have been.

One of the most interesting passages in the book contains Lady Gwendolen's comments on the phrase "splendid isola- tion." The speech from which we have already quoted proves that Lord Salisbury was by no means an isolationist. It is strange that a phrase- from another speech should have con- demned him to long and profound misunderstanding. It has come to be generally supposed that he actually worked to keep his country detached from all European problems. Never for a moment, however, did he believe that isolation was possible, or that if it were possible it could be practised by anyone conscious of his duties to the world. Lady Gwendolen explains that when he spoke of " splendid isolation " he was merely inviting his audience to be patient with Russia and Austria who were refusing to take any part in penal action against the Turks. Ile pointed out that Turkey was at the doors of both Russia and Austria ; war meant to them hazards and terrors from which Great Britain in her " splendid isolation " had the good fortune to be free. The " isolation " in fine, was not political or moral but purely geographical.

We have mentioned Germany's methods. They were com- posed partly of the too patent blandishments and the too plausible arguments of Bismarck, and partly of the clumsy patronage of the new German Emperor. On one occasion when the Emperor had sent through a diplomatic channel a heap of good advice for the improvement of the British Fleet and of Woolwich Arsenal, Lord Salisbury wrote an ironic note to the British military attaeh■S in Berlin in which he remarked that the benevolent hysteria of the advice suggested that the Emperor was not quite " all there." Up to that time the Emperor had showered friendly confidences upon Lord Salisbury but there suddenly came a great change. The Emperor pursued him for the rest of hit life with relentless dislike. Lady Gwendolen suggests that. Lord Salisbury's comments had somehow reached the car of the Emperor.

The latter part of the volume deals with the partition of Africa. The rush for the spoils provided Lord Salisbury with some of his happiest opportunities for spicing his remarks with a chuckling cynicism. What a passion had seized the Powers for possessing vast areas of "light soil" and "places with unpronounceable names " ! Heligoland, to the horror of many Englishmen, went to Germany in exchange for a free hand in Zanzibar. Germany was, of course, thrown into an ecstasy of naval delight, but it is true, as Lady Gwendolen points out, that Heligoland was much too near the German coast for it to be fortified by Great Britain.