20 MARCH 1942, Page 10



IN my article of last week I made a passing reference to the " war-guilt clause " contained in Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles. It has been suggested to me that my words might be interpreted as meaning that I accept the German legend regarding that treaty, and that I agree with our present enemies that the leaders of the Paris Conference of 1919 were vindictive, ignorant and cynical. So far from agreeing with this view, I regard it as dangerous and false. The first reason it is dangerous is that if we once admit the German suggestion that the treaty was iniquitous, we may come to imagine that Hitler's aggressions were in some sense justified, and thus blur the sharp contrast between right and wrong which is so necessary to St. George if he is ever to master the dragon which today seems so pervasive. But it is also dangerous for another reason. For if we fall into the habit of thinking that our present discontents are due to flagrant and remediable errors committed by certain individuals in 1919, we may come to take it for granted that greater wisdom and knowledge will inspire the negotiators of the next peace- settlement. Such an assumption would be imprudent. I see no reason at all to suppose that the negotiators of the future peace will be more benevolent, enlightened or well-informed than those who during the Paris Conference grappled with the problems of a New Europe. The human brain is a tiny instrument, and the human heart is subject to passion. I do not expect that the future peacemakers will be either intellectually or morally of greater stature than their predecessors ; but I do foresee that the problems of reconstruction and the pressure of bitterness and fear will be far more intricate and far more intense than those which thwarted and hampered us in 1919. If we are to deduce from the last Peace Conference any lessons which will be available at the next, then we must avoid all hallucinations, and decide what were, in fact, the errors or misfortunes last time.

* * * *