3 SEPTEMBER 1898, Page 4


THE CZAR'S ENCYCLICAL. Nv'HEN Louis XVIII. was discussing with Talleyrand the constitution of the French Upper House, tbe King proposed that the Members should give their services gratuitously. " Gratuit, Sire ! Ab, ce serait trop cher," was Tallevrand's reply. Had the Emperor of Russia unfolded to a Talley rand his project for disarmament, one can imagine the reply. " Universal peace ! Ah, Sire, the bloodshed would be too terrible." Alas, we are bound to confess that such a reply would have in it far too much truth to be pleasant. We are not going to suggest sinister motives for the Emperor's scheme, either in his mind or in those of his Ministers, for we do not believe in them. We feel convinced that the Emperor of Russia acted from a noble and generous motive, and from an earnest sense of the terrible responsibility that weighs upon the lord of so many millions of soldiers. But though we do not doubt the Emperor's good intentions, we do doubt his wisdom. The echo that comes back to his words is not a hymn of peace but the thunder of cannon. It was said a generation ago that six hours after Napoleon III. had made his famous New Year's speech to the corps diplo- matique at the Tuileries—the speech that was the prelude to Magenta—the cannon were beginning to rumble over the pavement of the Vienna streets. We wonder to-day, if the truth could be told, in how many of the War Offices of the Continent plans of mobilisation are being looked over, "of course with no immediate prospect of being employed, but merely to see that everything is in order." Not only is the Russian Emperor's scheme bound to fail, but we fear that its promulgation has actually done a grave injury to the cause of peace. It has unsettled men's minds, and drawn their attention to the instability of the status quo. When men are climbing along the edge of a precipice it is not wise to look down and consider how many thousand feet lie sheer below.

We have inferred that the Emperor's project for an agreement to keep the peace and for mutual pledges to prevent the increase of armaments must fail to attain its object. Our reasons are unfortunately too clear to make the statement of them any difficulty. Let our readers consider what are the conditions under which the nations of the world would be likely to agree not only to a universal peace, but to doing what they would consider would be to a great ex- tent putting it out of their power to wage war success- fully. When those conditions are established, let them contemplate the Powers and their aspirations as they actually are, and then ask how far they coincide with the ideal picture. Clearly, the condition which would make the Powers desire peace is contentment with the present state of things. Peace means the continuation of the existing status quo. But can we say that all the Powers are agreed in desiring the continuance of the status quo ? If we can, then peace is the easiest thing in the world to obtain. All the Powers will only have to guarantee each other's possessions and the status quo, and disband their armies and lay up their fleets. Let us inquire more in detail whether the nations of Europe desire the present state of things to continue. France most assuredly does not, and France is, politically as well as geographically, the pivot State of Europe. All France regards the status quo as an infamy. Her provinces are still in the hands of the robber, and till they are redeemed there can be no thought of acquiescence. The time may not yet have come for redemption, but till it does Gambetta's impassioned phrase holds good. Frenchmen must not speak of Alsace and Lorraine, but they must think of them without ceasing. In France, then, acquiescence in the status quo seems nothing less than national degradation. Germany is no doubt willing enough to agree to the status quo in regard to Alsace-Lorraine, but does she honestly wish for the status quo in regard to the domains of Turkey, China, and Spain ?- So little pleased with it is she in the Far East that she has seized Kiao-chow, and was ready to risk an estrangement with the United States if she could manage to get a part of the Philippine booty. England ,s by interest and temperament inclined to value peace greatly, and she may be said to be the least warlike of the Powers. For the last forty-five years she has practically fought no wars with white men. Yet even England, which: has got so ranch, and holds so wide an Empire, is not permanently content with the status quo. There are half a dozen active and eager bodies of men among us who think that England ought to expand more rapidly and thoroughly than she has done yet in several parts of the glebe. One ealls for British rule from the Cape to Cairo. Another wishes to connect Nigeria with the Upper Nile. A third wants Thibet and the Yangtse Valley. A fourth thinks a large part of Persia and air Arabia are rightfully ours. As for Russia, she may respect the European status quo, and may wish other- peoples to respect it, but she does not wish for the status quo in China, in Persia, or in Asia Minor. Even, America, once the most contented of Powers, does not believe that she is to be kept a prisoner to the North. American Continent. The status quo, then, is not what the Powers desire. How, then, can we expect them to. agree to a proposal which, if it means anything, means the permanency of the status quo I' But, it will perhaps be said, though no Power is quite satisfied, and though one Power at least desires ardently to break up the status quo, it is still possible• that the Powers may agree, until the peace is actually broken, to limit the size of their armaments—to re-) strict their warlike competition, that is—and so make the.'

burdens of the people less hard to bear. No doubt in theory this is possible. In practice it is, we fear, quite impossible. Consider for a moment the sort of problems which would come before a Conference summoned to find a mutual agreement as to armaments, or even as to the increase of armaments. Assume it proposed that no Power should pass more than, say, half of its male population through the army or have with the colours. more than 2 per cent. of the total population. At once it would be seen that such a plan, though apparently im- partial, would in reality place some Powers at a dis- advantage. Again, a fixed maximum of men with the colours might be unfavourable to a Power like Russia, which obviously, owing to her defective com- munications, cannot rapidly mobilise her forces. Next,. how impossible it would be to decide what nominal force in Russia would only in effect be equal to a smaller German or French force. If a fixed War Budget were arranged for, the difficulties of finding a law of equalisation. would be still greater. If France and Germany agreed only to spend .R20,000,000 a year each, economical Germany would obviously have an advantage over extravagant and free-handed France. Besides, how would it be possible to.

prevent indirect additions to the Army Budget by paying certain regiments as, say, police or Custom House officers? Even the plan of agreeing not to increase the armies. beyond the point reached in 1898, which is apparently the plan favoured by the Emperor of Russia, would not work in practice. Disputes would at once arise as to whether this or that scheme of reorganisation was not really a. cryptic increase over the limit of 1898. New forms of guns, new powders, new artillery trains, would all be liable to suspicion as virtual aggrandisements of power. One shudders to think of the grounds for war that wonkt arise over the interpretation of an agreement not to increase present armaments. Even private firms find agreements not to compete most difficult to carry out.. The difficulties when the contracting parties would be jealous and turbulent nations, with no possibility of deciding or enforcing decisions in disputed cases, would, be infinitely greater. The notion of a Conference at which- pledges to disarm, or not arm any further, would be made seems, then, to us purely illusory, or, rather, positively dangerous. It would either settle nothing, or else end in a war in which the nations of the earth would be seen " fighting like devils for conciliation," and arming in order to enforce disarmament.

The only way in which it seems to us that the Emperor of Russia might do something tangible for the European peace would be for him to frankly join the Triple Alliance- That Alliance is a league for the maintenance of peace based on the status quo. If the Emperor of Russia joined that Alliance he would of course abandon his French allies, but he could at once make agreements with Germany and Austria and Italy by which their armies would be reduced, for France, however much enraged, could not fight the Quadruple Alliance. But is it conceivable that the Emperor of Russia would act thus, and expose himself to the charge of having betrayed France ? Another alternative would be for Russia to disband a part of her army, countermand the additions to her fleet, and withdraw the vast force which she keeps massed on the frontiers of Prussia and Austria. That would indeed show that Russia was determined on peace. Probably Russia, entrenched behind her snows, could do this with safety, but is it likely that the present Emperor, brave and honest man as he no doubt is, would have the nerve to take such a step ? Only a man of heroic fortitude and supernatural insight will calmly calculate the chances, and then unload his revolver and unbuckle his sword in a room full of dangerous men all armed to the teeth. Such action cannot be expected of the Emperor of Russia. Yet depend upon it, until some Power is found brave enough onl wise enough to act the part of the heroic Quaker the ta. icy of disarmament will find few sincere advocates. Such gg lerb confidence might,and perhaps would, find imitators, hi- no half-measures will be of any avail. When a dozen it t with their guns cocked and pointed each call out, i 11 put down my gun if the others will," nobody ver moves. Sadly, then, we turn from the Emperor's roject for finding peace through a mutual agreement, and say that the quest is vain." It was a generous impulse, lout it cannot, we fear, succeed even partially. It is, Indeed, far more likely that when the first glamour of he proposal has worn off there will be a reaction of essimism. The Continental Powers will bear their urden of arms not more, but less, easily when an effort as been made, and failed, to relieve them. The peoples will argue that the case is hopeless, and may then ask the most dangerous question of all—the question which it should be the effort of all statesmen to avoid—" Would it Lot be better to end all this misery, one way or the other, ty fighting out a battle which is clearly inevitable ?" As long as that question is postponed there is something mined. Until war actually breaks out there is always some hope that it may be averted. For example, a great Liberal movement in Russia, internal revolutions in Germany or France, or a constitutional struggle in Austria, though they might no doubt precipitate war, might also so regroup the Powers as to prevent it. Whatever impatient critics may say, peace armed to the teeth is less bad than war. Therefore it is, in our opinion, better that the nations should go on as they are than that they should be tempted by hopes of disarmament to embark upon a course of action which is very likely to end in hostilities.

One more word remains to be said. The Emperor's Rescript has already half shattered the Franco-Russian Illiance, and has thrown the French into a condition of restless anxiety, if not indeed of furious distrust. But Europe is never safe when France is in that condition, or it means the possibility of her soldiers calling for war at all costs and all hazards. When Frenchmen are blind with panic and rage they fire their guns wherever they fancy they can see a foe. We do not, of course, say that things have yet come to this in France. But the state of French public opinion forbids us to feel that the first results of the Emperor's Encyclical have increased the talmness and peacefulness of the Continent.