16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 21


HOPEFULNESS for the future relations of Britain and Germany is justified, we trust, by the friendly words of the Emperor in the City of London on Wednesday. These words are only a confirmation of the reassuring signs which preceded them. The best token, after all, of the beginning of a better period in the feelings of Germans and Englishmen towards one another is the fact that the Emperor has come here at all. It is true that he has not come for the negotiation of any sort of definite political agreement, but, as we said last week, the very condition of his visit is ultimately political in an important sense. The Emperor would not and could not have come unless he were willing to let Englishmen know , that he recognised the reality, the reasonable- ness, and the permanence of the cardinal point of our European policy, which is the Entente with France. We have no ambitions in Europe except the simple and pacific one of helping to maintain its equilibrium. If the scale of power tilts one way or the other from the particular poise at which it has settled after ages of pushing and pulling, ,all Europe is thrown into a ferment of anxiety. An experience of this sort is too recent for us to wish to see the centre of gravity in the stability of Europe moved again ; and thus our whole aim in keeping it in statu is intelligible, not to say scientific. In the pre-Algeciras days the German Foreign Office mis- doubted us ; but we are living now in the more urbane post-Algeciras days, in which the impediments Germany puts in the way of our French friends happen to be fewer and smaller in proportion as her opportunities for putting them there are more obvious and numerous. The occasions for tripping France up two or three years ago were as nothing to the temptation which has been offered any time these six months by the extraordinary difficulties of, the French position in Morocco. Yet Germany, apart from announcing a few reservations in her sanction of French policy, has conspicuously not turned French difficulties to account. This more genial bearing is re- produced in the Emperor's own words, which might be ransacked by the most prejudiced eyes without the discovery of any attempt to place Britain before the world as co-operating with Germany against others. Our friends are not incited by insidious or clumsy phrases to believe that we are in danger of being drawn into any intrigue against them. In brief, the Emperor, as it seems to us, perceives the beneficent meaning of the friendship between France and Britain, and is, we hope, in no danger of being driven in the future to any different interpretation of it.

So far, so good. No one could be more gratified than we are at this recognition and implied acceptance of the only foundation upon which a better understanding between ourselves and Germany is possible. A founda- tion is much ; but an ill-built house cannot stand long even on the firmest foundation in the world. We want more than a. foundation ; we desire to see the building itself architecturally sound and reared with studious care and intelligence. We fear that we Englishmen are a rather haphazard people in our building, up of the international edifices of good feeling. We are haphazard because we are on the whole sentimental; and we do not remember, or know, that we are sentimental because Nye are so frequently told that we are phlegmatic. Yet ne venture to say that the British crowds who cheer foreign visitors do so with fewer reservations in their mind than any European nation. The popular accept- ance of the Entente Cordials by France, for example, is based upon a more considered reasoning, on more intellectual grounds, than it is with us. When the Englishman in the street has discovered that suspected visitors are not wild beasts, but real human beings " most remarkable like you," he is inclined to think he has discovered all. " Away with suspicion! It is a pity that we did not discover before what good fellows these are." We wish that good-fellowship were all,—then there need be no serious quarrels. But there is a reason for the renowned paradox that while any Englishman can consort on excellent terms with any foreigner in a private relation, the aggregation of Englishmen who make up the nation fall out with aggregations of foreigners. There is not merely a conflict of national ambition—that is a very obvious cause of quarrel—there is a conflict of ideals, and a varying degree of difference in the point of view. And yet ideals which are hopelessly alien to our own may be held with the utmost sincerity. The point is that it is our simple business to understand them ; other- wise our building will soon totter. The disputations of theologians are often complicated by the need of using a term which only has the value of a metaphor as though it were the formula of an exact science ; and the same thing on another plane is true of the arguments which politicians often draw from foreign countries to apply to themselves. Some humane politicians are in the habit of testing their policy by foreign opinion of it, as though foreign opinion, even if it were offered with the impar- tiality of the British Judicial Bench, could be applied as a standard without reference to its utterly different condi- tions and conceptions. This does not seem to be a very profitable occupation ; and it ends sometimes in violent disillusion and revulsions of feeling when we are brought into some intimate act of co-operation with a nation whose moral code has been insufficiently examined.

The disparity of ideal and temperament between our- selves and Germany appears rather vividly in a little collection of the German Emperor's sayings which has just been published by Messrs. Burns and Oates (1s. net). We should remember, for example, that in dealings with Germany we might at any time have to take into account a theory of the divine right of Monarchy which might not consort easily with our more rational conception. " You know," said the Emperor in 1891, " that I regard my whole position and task as appointed by Heaven." The same claim was advanced in the same year in other words : " I cannot deviate from the path which I have prescribed for myself, and for which I have to answer only to God and my conscience." In 1899 the Emperor said even more particularly : " Through the grace of Heaven and the deeds of my grandfather we have now once more secured a strong United Empire obeying a Single Will ; and this strength shall be exerted to the full." The British toler- ance, or even encouragement, of grumbling as a method of criticism which keeps all Governments wholesomely anxious for the security of their position appears in a different light to the German Emperor, as, indeed, it must to the embodiment of the single will. In 1892 he said : " There has been too much grumbling and finding fault with the Government and all that it has done. On the most trifling grounds the quiet of the people has been disturbed and their pleasure in life and trust in the Fatherland im- paired. From this grumbling many have been led to believe that Germany is one of the most unhappy and worst- governed countries in the world. These people had better shake the dust of Germany from their feet." When Prince Henry of Prussia sailed for the Far East in 1897 the Emperor said : " But should any essay to detract from our just rights or to injure us, then up and at him with your mailed fist, and if it is God's will, weave for your youthful brow a wreath of laurel which no one in all the German Empire will grudge you." That is as unfamiliar in form to us as, no doubt, the commonplace charge to a British Admiral to watch and safeguard our interests would seem flat and uninspiring to a German officer. The Emperor's absolutism is insisted on expressly in his relation to the Navy in words used three years ago : " I found a Navy whose excellent material as regards its officers was not inspired by the complete sense of absolutely belonging to the supreme War-Lord. But I have been successful in achieving my object. The officers of the Navy have become my officers and my comrades, and it is by virtue of this fact that our efficiency has been created." In 1905, when speaking of his desire for peace, the Emperor said : " But I swore, too, that the bayonet should be kept sharp and the cannon loaded in order that neither jealousy nor envy from without might disturb us in the cultivation of our garden." To students at Bonn in 1891 the Emperor said : " It is my firm conviction that every youth who enters& beer-drinking and duelling club will receive the true direction of his life from the spirit prevailing there I hope that you will always take delight in handling the duelling-blade."

These last words, which were of course as sincerely uttered as the others, take us farther from our own ethics than all the rest. We give these quotations only because we are sure that thoroughly to understand our differences of temperament is the only way of avoiding miscalcula- tions in the value of words and terms. Between peoples of different ideals grave causes of dispute may appear far more suddenly than in cases where warnings come gradually through a cleavage of motives perfectly expressed and understood in a common code. Just before the Franco-Prussian War our Foreign Office officials announced that there was not a cloud in the sky. And though we see no cloud in the sky for the moment, and devoutly hope that the sky will 'long remain of deep blue, we should be foolish to cease to demand for our security all the services of a strong Army and Navy and of a wise diplomacy. These will never be used defiantly, or against any one nation. On these conditions—the very conditions which the German Emperor has wisely postulated over and over again for the protection of his own country—we are prepared to enjoy the sunnier days which the German Emperor's friendly speeches in England seem to disclose to us. Let us, in a word, take to heart the Imperial precept which we have quoted above : " The bayonet should be kept sharp and the cannon loaded in order that neither jealousy nor envy from without might disturb us in the cultivation of our garden."