12 AUGUST 1905, Page 5


MHE really important question about the entente cordiale between Great Britain and France is whether it will endure. We believe it will, though not precisely for the reasons which the daily journals have recently been putting forward. They gush too much, not because they delight in gushing, but because they think that in the present condition of European affairs sentiment is safer than argument, and after-dinner speeches in leader type are the form of welcome which is least provocative to suspicious lookers-on. They are possibly quite right, for now that the masses attend to international relations kindly words have more than their old value, and com- pliments allay suspicion between peoples as they never or seldom did between great Courts. For ourselves, however, we cannot help preferring to be a little more serious and less ecstatically polite. We are unable, as historians, to believe that increased intercourse between peoples always produces increased amity—for if that were the case civil wars would be impossible—or that mutual -comprehension always results in mutual friendship. To know all is often to condemn much. Relations can quarrel just as fiercely as strangers, and the more intimate the friendship the deeper the enmity when that friendship is shattered. Sympathy, too, springs mainly from similarity of ideas ; and the two nations are still separated by armies of ideas, ideas about religion, about the best organisation of society, about the ends which Governments should seek and ensue. Nothing has happened which will turn Frenchmen into Englishmen or Englishmen into Frenchmen, nor, if history is any guide, is such conversion even possible in the future. Nevertheless, we agree with the most pleasant spoken of Admirals or the smoothest of diplomatists that, for at least three reasons, the present friendship may, and probably will, outlast a generation.

The first and strongest of the reasons is that both nations honestly and strongly desire peace, general peace as well as peace with each other. The British never desire war for its own sake, for they know they are never ready for it ; they detest the suffering which accompanies it, and the disturbance of all material interests which it creates ; and while they will fight rather than give up rights, they hold the Government which avoids fighting to be the most successful of Governments. That feeline•° was shown decisively in the Fashoda incident, in the Dogger Bank incident—either of which might have produced a great war—in the temperate forbearance with which some galling incidents of the war in the Far East have been left for the statesmen to settle, and, we must add, in the view taken of the King's intervention in foreign politics. Time was when that intervention would have developed angry suspicion, as it did when his father was supposed to have intervened ; but the King is known to be devoted to peace, and there is nothing but approval of his share in the great work of securing it. The British do not like Russia, because she is supposed to be always threaten- ing India, and they greatly admire .Japan; but all the same, a moderate peace which would leave both Powers at liberty to recruit their strength and settle their own internal affairs would be welcomed here with unaffected pleasure. Our people have done too much in the past, and are too sure of their place in the world, to care much about glory ; while the French, who do care, enter- tain for the first time in their history a doubt whether glory from the next war is a certainty, and partly from that doubt, partly from the rise of a new conchs sociale which dreads and detests militarism, the desire of peace, if it may be main- tained" with honour, has been sOlidified among their masses into a fixed aspiration like that for equality or religious tolerance. As it is plain beyond argument that the great barrier to war is the friendship of ' the two peoples, that friendship will, we conceive, last- while there is dread that peace may be disturbed,—that is, as most men see, until Germany is content with her position, a frame of mind which, in whatever Way it is produced, it will take at least a generation to secure.

The second reason for the probable duration of the entente is the absence of anything to quarrel about, arising partly from the settlement of ancient subjects of dispute, and partly from the decay, very marked in France, and be- ginning to be marked in this country also, of the aggressive colonising spirit. The body of the French people do not really wish for more colonies. They are not unwilling to increase their hold on Morocco, but they clearly did not think that worth a great war, with the risks it involved to their own territory. They were willing to give up their own claims on Egypt, though those were "con- secrated by history " ; and the kind of spirit which compelled Lord Dufferin to annex Burmah, and very nearly induced Lord Rosebery to declare war for the indepen- dence of Siam, has disappeared from among them. We doubt if they would welcome the annexation of Yunnan, and they have made no kind, of response to the momentary but fierce agitation as to the danger to Indo-China produced by the success of the Japanese. They would not now help Germany to baffle the hopes of Tokio as to the ultimate Agreement between Japan and Russia, and they are not putting forward even feelers as to any increase of their Asiatic territory. We on our side, though occasionally restless in Central Africa, are beginning to think that we have enough of the world to be responsible for, and hardly consider its probable relation towards " expansion " as one of the merits or demerits of the new Government to which we all look forward with so much hope or fear. The dominant idea now is to avoid, instead of seeking, points of colonial contact with other Powers. It is, in truth, nearly impossible to discern points at which the two countries in their immediate progress are likely to collide, and while they do not collide about territorial questions the entente cordiale is almost certain to be preserved. Trade rivalry is not quite sufficient to pro- duce, or in the eyes of taxpayers to justify, war.

Moreover—and this is perhaps the strongest reason of all—the two nations, though separated, as we have said, by a mulkitude of different ideas, hold one far-reaching idea in common. They both believe in liberty as essential to the progress and happiness of mankind. They both think that for a civilised people to govern itself, to regulate its own affairs, to seek its own future according to its own views, is not only a privilege but a right. Both hate to hear of oppression, whether defended in the name of religion, or of security, or of the "Monarchical principle " ; and both regard the rise of a dictatorship in Europe as a thing fatal to the hopes of mankind, and therefore to be resisted at all hazards. Both are aware that the defence of freedom has been entrusted by Providence to them, and that if they separate or collide the cause of freedom will be thrown back a hundred years. They, and they alone, of the Great Powers of Europe wish what is broadly called " Liberalism " to prevail, desire that the regime of law should supersede the regime of personal will, and are eager that every man should speak, or write, or act in safety under the protection of the Judges of the land. They are both against personal rule. We do not always recognise the strength of that bond, but it is perceived more clearly every year ; and as political improvement advances with terrible slowness, so that even yet all over Central and Eastern Europe a strike is a sort of insurrection, the necessity of it will be felt till at least three of the greater nations have passed through a term of turmoil and. distress. We see no reason why, even if France and Great Britain fall back upon their old habit of regarding each other with somewhat satirical observation, the dis- position to aid each other in time of political difficulty which we call the entente cordiale should not endure in full force for at least a generation. Liberty and free institu- tions are gifts so precious that those who possess them and see them menaced feel a kind of Freemasonry between themselves, and realise the necessity for standing shoulder to shoulder in their defence.

We have spoken frankly, and in a way which may at the moment seem cold and unsympathetic. Nevertheless, we believe that we have given better and truer reasons why the entente should last, and be a great force in the world, than have been stated by those who have merely abandoned themselves to the delirium of sentiment. The agreement will last because both nations ardently desire peace and liberty, and know that these blessings cannot be maintained With certainty unless they are pledged to stand together and ensure each other in their possession.