Keeping Borden in London
We must Do Something to Improve Our Deplorable Diplomacy
Lieut.-Colonel J. B. Maclean
THE war goes favorably. That is, conditions are steadily improving. We are no further ahead, and there may be more serious reverses before this appears in print: but there is a better understanding of the seriousness of the situation, and more intelligent preparations are being made to ensure final victory.
There seems to be every hope that we will win in the air. The hundreds of thousands of fighting men and the increasing number of Liberty motors now being safely sent across the ocean, following the practical completion in France of the tremendous new seaport with its wonderful docks, warehouses, transport facilities and other preparations necessary before the Americans could come to our assistance in full force afford reasonable belief that, if the present rate of progress is maintained the war may be over, at latest, by the end of next year. It may come sooner; but we should make our plans for two or three years of terrific fighting.
It is strange that with this better outlook, there is at present real pessimism in the tone of the British people and press. When, in December last, for the purpose of bringing my own clientele, the readers of this magazine, to a realization of the exact state of affairs, I wrote the article “Why We Are Losing the War” which was based on information, and common sense deductions therefrom, that was available to the writer in Europe, the British press was generally more optimistic than at any time since September, 1914. The. wealthy profiteers were hilariously happy; the trade unionists on war supplies and shipping were striking for fewer working days and higher pay; and the reinforcements our armies at the front so sorely pleaded for were not considered necessary. Only the army leaders were depressed. The explanation is probably that made by Hon. Mr. Barnes, British Minister of Labor—that “the tremendous defeat of March awakened all classes to the fearful misunderstanding of the situation and the dangers ahead.” The misunderstandings had been brought about by the systematic suppression of facts as to the war and its conduct by the authorities.
THAT powerful anti-Government group in England composed of pacifists; alien enemies with friends in influential places; politicians and families who are using the war primarily to promote their own selfish ends; British profiteers who it was shown were quite willing to supply the enemy with cotton, metals, cloth, cement, tea, coffee, cocoa, and many other essentials; and that biggest grafter of all who was charged with commandeering British Government ships to replace for his own profit the steamers the United States took off to carry food to Britain (think of an Imperial Cabinet Minister being freely charged in Washington with this crime, and no explanation being offered by him) ; that powerful assemblage of national enemies is steadily losing its hold.
Pemberton Billing, M.P., is not a man to
admire; rather the reverse; but that there is far more in the charges, assertions, hints and suspicions of enemy alliances arising out of his court and other exposures, through blackmail, is generally admitted in well informed international circles. Writers of the highest reputation have stated less bluntly—with some sugar coating—that evidence of some serious, moral or financial mis-steps of British men and women, politicians and diplomats, is carefully locked up in the vaults of German agents. Some of these charges appeared in print in 1914. Our extraordinary concessions, information, and actual aid to the enemy, which have marked the progress of the war, seem to clearly indicate that some powerful personages, men and women, are completely under enemy influence. Even in Canada the Toronto World, edited by a brilliant M.P., makes some very serious charges involving persons in Canada and some distinguished men in the Imperial service. If the facts are as stated, the M.P.’s duty to the Empire would seem to call for actual names instead of veiled references.
Many of these facts, hitherto kept from the public by censorship and other influences, are now leaking out and the great mass of British people, always clean and honorable, are developing an ugly mood, which is a good sign. They and we suffer in the deaths and wounds of our dear ones, and pay the costs for the rest of our lives. If we do not protest and expose rottenness in high places then we had better stop fighting for democracy.
If ever there was a time when Lloyd George and other great British patriots needed the moral support of the masses of the Empire to counteract these influences, to wage a vigorous war and conclude a stern peace it is now. Yet here in Canada there is such a misunderstanding of the situation that leading newspapers and politicians have been drawn into a campaign that means the withdrawal of the sorely needed moral support and expert advice of our Premier and group of Cabinet Ministers now with him at the Imperial headquarters. They are asked to come home, to deal with petty domestic problems that require only ordinary ability and good sense, and leave the big Imperial problems at the mercy of a gang of pacifists, moral perverts, profiteers, and society leeches.
An important group in England have no love for the men from the Overseas Dominions who want to know the why of things done or not done. The statesmen of the Overseas Dominions want men in the management of our Imperial affairs who will do things and get things done—who will win the war for us. It is pretty generally agreed among those who understand the situation that the Empire would, in all probability, have gone down to defeat ere this had Asquith and his group of “wait and sees” continued in power. It was the work of Hughes of Australia, supported by Sir Robert Borden, that brought to a climax the agitation in England that finally hurled them from power.
Sir Robert Borden, it will be remembered, went to England in 1915 accom-
panied by R. B. Bennett, M.P., and Sir Herbert Holt. Judging from his career the latter is the greatest organizer, business builder and executive we have in Canada, perhaps in the Empire. At that early date there is every reason to believe Sir Robert was convinced that things were going badly; that the situation was very serious, and he picked Sir Herbert to accompany him to England and France as an expert adviser. Immediately on his return Sir Herbert gave out one of the most powerful interviews that ever appeared in any Canadian newspaper. I think there can be no doubt he prepared it in conjunction with the Premier.
It was generally condemned by ignorant writers on big newspapers throughout Canada. But it was so highly thought of by a group of the ablest men in England—the men on the spot who know—that they reprinted it from The Financial Post for disti'ibution among members of Parliament and newspapers in the United Kingdom. It is well worth reading now. Sir Herbert wrote in August, 1915.
“We have the balance of power; we have the finest men at the front that you could find in the world—men who are fit for anything, and 50 per cent, superior to their foes ; but until a strong man is found in England to control the situation and direct the course of the business end of the war—a man of iron, absolutely implacable and able to resist the corroding effects of politics, which eat their sinister way into the public life of the Mother Country—we will never win this war. I am convinced that there is the most tragical non-understanding of the vast and terrible issues of the war ; second, that we have the finest fighting force it is possible to imagine, and that their efforts are largely nullified through lack of proper support ; third, that there has been the most fatal muddling as respects thebusiness end of the war ; fourth, that one man must emerge—one man who will be obeyed, who will take hold of the threads of interest and manipulate them, not interfering with the military leaders, but doing everything in the way of organization as well, if not better, than the Germans have done it—a man who will be disinterested and sink all personal preferences, which has not been done in England, even among those 'high up’ ; fifth, that the overseas dominions, which have contributed of their best, and which have enlarged views, as contra-distinguished from narrow and insular views, which are too prevalent at the heart of the Empire, must be taken into, the war councils of the Empire.
“You may think our politics bad enough, but the politics of the Mother Country are absolutely rotten. Even the men higher up are thinking about politics and positions and votes. They are moved by political affiliations. At so awful a moment they are thinking of placating this or that element among the voters. Even the very highest in the State are not indifferent to these sordid and petty and personal considerations.
“Then, there is a lack of appreciation of the nature and issues of the world contest."
The publication in England of this interview and other matter in The Financial Post from Canada set people thinking. The Northcliffe and other independent papers took it up. Then came that irrepressible Welshman, the Premier of Australia. When the news of the terrible casualties his people had suffered in the Dardanelles reached him he hurried to England via Canada. In this country he had been assured by Borden of the moral support of Canada. Asquith and Churchill, and they alone, were held responsible for the slaughter of thousands of Australians. They had embarked on the campaign against the highest expert advice. Hughes’ aim was to eliminate them. The efforts
to get Hughes out of England or buy or kill him politically will some day be written and will make a very interesting story. He refused to go until he was sure of Asquith’s defeat.
THE weaknesses that our Premier and Sir Herbert Holt discovered in 1915— the “narrow and insular views which are too prevalent at the heart of the Empire” —were not new to other European nations. It is not going too far to say that, with a strong Imperial government of broad-visioned men in London, there would have been no war, or at least a short one with an early allied victory. They would have foreseen it; taken the advice of the military and naval commanders, and prepared.
A great German banker said to me in Berlin, July, 1914, the day Germany nominally mobilized—she had actually mobolized ten days before: “We have
been preparing two years. We are ready now. Our enemies are not.” He expected Britain to go in. Would Germany have dared to fight a Britain prepared?
As far back as April, 1908, Clemenceau, then, as now, Prime Minister, attended in London the funeral of a British Prime Minister—CampbellBannerman. After the funeral he asked Sir Edward Grey what England would do when the Germans should bolt through Belgium into France, seek to seize tiie Channel ports, and capture Paris before resistance could be organized.
“It would make a great stir in England,” was Sir Edward Grey’s answer.
“Stir! we shall want help, not a stir,” returned Clemenceau. “One hundred thousand British soldiers across the Channel within a week would not stop th» rush. Two hundred and fifty thousand would stop it. Five hundred thousand would help us to turn it back. You have not got even 250,000. You must get them —and remember that, if men can be improvised, you cannot improvise rifles, ammunition, and artillery.”
In the following August Clemenceau lunched wih King Edward on the balcony of the Hotel Weimar at Marienbad. German journalists watched the scene from below and reported that Clemenceau “engaged the King in lively conversation, accompanying his remarks by forcible gestures.” The whole German Press speculated upon the subject of that talk, but failed to guess the truth. Clemenceau was repeating to King Edward, his conversation with Sir Edward Grey, and adding, “I am convinced that the confiding insularity of British statesmen will one day involve Europe in a catastrophe.’’ Clemenceau, the journalist, is to-day the spirit of France incarnate, because, foreseeing, he warned her and her friends of the peril, kept a stout heart despite their blindness upheld their cause against other Frenchmen who would fain have sold the British Empire and the independence of France to the enemy, and because he has acted throughout as a spur, a tonic, and a fearless augur of victory. He leads France because he has knowledge, fire, and a firm grip of principle. President Wilson may be the prophet, but Clemenceau is the moral spearhead of the Alliance. Yet he was arrested and his newspaper suppressed in 1916, because he was telling the truth about the war, and the French understood so thoroughly that they are unanimously with him. They shot political traitors. The truth is only now coming home to us in the British Empire. We have unfortun-
ately not yet shot any of our culpable politicians.
Only the other day Sir Auckland Geddes member of the present ministry
"Looking back we saw how much there was in the past that was wrong : we saw how we drifted into this war. There must have been something wrong in our means of government. There were too many men in the Government in those days who were not really practical men of affairs. One of the great lessons was that in the future we must find men who had done things, and not merely spoken words.”
THIS weakness in the handling of our foreign affairs is not a new one to us in Canada. Our old Premier, Sir John A. Macdonald, sensed its development with the passing of Beaconsfield for whose capacity he had a great admiration. But of his successors Sir John on his return from England expressed his misgivings and added. “They had not ability but audacity.”
Of our weakness in Petrograd and until recently in Washington I have written several times. Of Berlin I wrote in my first article of this series, August, 1917 :
*T was in Berlin when the war began—I learned a great deal. My sources of information were of the best—with one exception, our own Embassy. Had I followed their advice I would now, if alive, be a prisoner in Austria, or most assuredly in Germany. A chance friendly call at the U.S. Embassy—the former Minister and many of the attaches of which I had known intimately— warned and saved me. This was not my first lesson of the incompetence of our diplomatic service and the superiority of the American. Years of experience had taught me that, as a rule, if I wanted an intellectual treat at a five o’clock tea the British diplomat or Consul has no superior. If I wanted to get out of trouble, or have some business attended to, I have generally gone to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Of course, there are some notable exceptions among the British.”
To that I might have added the evidence of a British ship owner—a man who covers the world with small freighters. He said that all his Captains had instructions, when in trouble in the distant parts of the world, to apply to the American Consuls and not to waste time on their own. I:i many cases he pointed out British Consuls were not British at all. Our Consul-General at Berlin was for many years a German.
Now I have before me confirmation from the inside, of the weakness of our diplomatic service. George Young, M.V.O., until recently our first Secretary at Lisbon, and for over 20 years in the diplomatic service, has recently been pointing out how un-English and inefficient is our whole diplomatic service.
Mr. Young is the eldest son of Sir George Young, Bart; he was educated at Eton and Universities in France, Germany and Russia; served as Attache at our Embassy in Washington for a couple of years and then was transferred in succession to Athens, Constantinople, Madrid and was for a time Acting Minister in Belgrade; and was again at Washington in 1906. Because of his superior abilities he was selected to be secretary of the North Atlantic Fisheries Arbitration at the Hague in 1910 and again in 1911 he filled the same office to the International Fur Seal Conference at Washington. That work completed, the British authorities invited him to assist in the National Health Insurance Commission during 1912 and 1913, and soon after the war broke out he was called back from Lisbon to take a position at the Admiralty. He is also something of a linguist and writer. He passed an examination in Turkish and wrote a compilation in French of the Otto-
man Law, and is also the author of a History of Modern Times published last
I had the good fortune to meet a distinguished Foreign Office representative who happened to be in Canada for a couple of days recently and who knows Mr. Young well. He tells me he is one of the most capable men in our diplomatic service. Therefore anything Mr. Young writes may be well regarded.
In an article which appeared in the Star, London, England, he says that the present un-English and inefficient condition of our diplomatic service is very serious. He attributes it to the system by which our whole diplomacy is controlled by a clique alien both to the ideals and to the institution of our body politic. He
“The essential elements in foreign affairs —in the relationship of one people to another—are to be found firstly in the point of contact with the foreign authority abroad, i.e., the Foreign Mission; and, secondly, in the centre of control at home, i.e., the Foreign Minister.
“The whole relationship, say, from the British to the French people might be stated thus: British people through
press, Parliament, or the polls to the Cabinet, and so to the Foreign Secretary, thence through the Foreign Office to the British Ambassador in Paris or the French Ambassador in London, on to the French Foreign Minister, and so as before to the P’rench people. Properly, Parliament or the press should criticize, the Cabinet should control, the Foreign Secretary conduct, and the Ambassador counsel. But the way our system really works now is that a Foreign Office clerk counsels, controls, and conducts, the Foreign Secretary criticises, and nothing else counts at all.
“This appropriation by the Foreign Office of the functions both of the democratic representatives of the people at home and of the diplomatic representatives of the Empire abroad has come about as the result of two distinct political processes.
“One such process is the general acquisition of authority of late years by the bureaucracy at the expense of the democracy—augmented in the case of foreign affairs by the pontifical powers claimed by the profession and to some extent conceded by the public. For the attitude of Parliament towards an announcement on . foreign policy is much what that of the Roman Senate was towards an augur who argued peace or war from the color of a chicken’s liver. The other process is the recovery by the so-called ruling class of a monopoly of foreign affairs, a monopoly menaced at one time by the extension over foreign affairs of the democratic ideas and institutions already established in home affairs.
“Thus it would not even strike a bank clerk as curious that, though he may become Foreign Secretary, he is not good enough to be a First Secretary; nor a solicitor’s clerk that, though he may become Lord Chancellor, he is not qualified to be head of a Chancery. If he were a sensible man he wouldn’t mind much— unless and until he saw how much he and everyone else suffered by his exclusion.
“For it is these processes, reproduced in foreign peoples, that have so weakened diplomacy as to bring down the whole structure of European civilization into an abyss of war. The whole weight of the international relationships has been thrown on the newest and weakest link
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in the chain—the Foreign Office—a link that properly should not appear in the chain at all.
“As it is, however, the Government— that is the Cabinet, that is the Foreign Secretary, that is a senior clerk—can decide for the whole Empire issues involving the prosperity or poverty, the life or death of each of us, and the honor or disgrace, the unity or the discord of the Empire. And that, moreover, without any power of revision by, even without any reference to, the public opinion of England, still less that of the Empire. The Cabinet is supposed to be informed, but frequently is not, and rarely is called on for a decision. The House of Commons is not supposed to be informed, and rarely gets even opportunity for discussion. Foreign Secretaries mostly sit in the House of Lords, and, especially of late, have frankly and forcibly contended that foreign affairs are matters of exclusively executive concern.
“The argument cannot be sustained either theoretically or practically, but it has hitherto been accepted.
“We saw in the last article how this system has cut itself off from contact with foreign communities, and thus isolated itself abroad. We now see how it has cut itself off from contact with its own constituents and isolated itself at home.
“But this is not all.
. An organization, like any other organism, if its root be cut, rots. A bureaucracy that is not vitalized and fertilized by contact and co-operation with democracy becomes stagnant and sterile. The authority in foreign affairs assumed by the Foreign Secretary is such as no one man could possibly adequately discharge. As a result, he has been becoming, more and more, only the president of a sort of private cabinet, much resembling the
ui in?* Aself in its origin and working.
In the critical years before the war, this cabinet, or clique, consisted of three men. Une of these was the Principal Private Secretary, who, as such, had complete control of the whole personnel of diplomacy; a Roman Catholic, of some astuteness, not unamiable, but with defects that should have disqualified him for so great a responsibility. The other two looked after policy, one taking the outside part, the other the office work. The former was of trench extraction, a dilettante, popular with duchesses and foreign diplomats; the latter half-German, a very able and active official, but as prescribed as positive in his views.
“It was this triumvirate that conducted and, to a large extent, controlled our foreign policy until broken up by war conditions. They represented certain sectional points of view and policies, and reproduced them in action with the heightened color of their own prejudices, without any other check or balance than that provided by a Foreign Secretary personally dependent on them. That in these conditions our foreign policy was no worse or weaker than it was is due solely to the straightness and strength of Viscount Grey himself. It is sad to think of what might have been had he been supported by a sound system.
“The system is unsound. And it has been officially recognized as unsound by more than one Royal Commission; but its inside influence is such and the outside in-
terests it represents are so strong that it is still untouched. Its outside power is based on its combination with privilege, its inside power on patronage. Controlling as it does all access to the Foreign Secretary whether from outside or inside, it controls all appointments to a service that still carries with it a social status, and all promotions in that service to posts of social eminence and solid emoluments.
“That these posts are the urizes in a Government lottery in which diplomatists invest thirty years’ work on pay that scarcely covers their extrà expenses makes the patronage all the more powerful.
“Suppose you think of putting your son into diplomacy.
“First you want a nomination from the Foreign Secretary, that is the Private Secretary; then the approval of a Board of Selection—again the Private Secretary; then you must provide him with £400 a year and as much more as he may want (he will want at least three times that, unless he is severely simple and single in his ways of life) ; thereafter, in some twenty to thirty years, you will, if still alive, see him get a well-paid post— from the Private Secretary; and, finally, you must be prepared to see him drift through life from the demi-monde and diplomatic circles of one foreign capital to those of another, a discontented dilettante, until at last life acquires for him a purpose and a pursuit in collecting M. V. O.s and K. C. M. G.s—from the Private Secretary; until he retires on a pension— unless he is deprived of it by the Private Secretary For, if he does not suit the system, owing to independence or even individuality óf character, it will almost automatically and quite arbitrarily make it impossible for him to remain in the service.
“Small wonder if diplomatists sometimes put the reputed preferences or prejudices of the Private Secretary before their own principles.
“We had once a Private Secretary whose criterion was neat boots—and for a time how beautiful upon the mountains were the feet even of the Messengers. There has been of late a succession of Roman Catholic Private Secretaries. An increasing proportion of officials of senior rank are now of that Church, and I haven’t yet heard of any diplomatist becoming a Dissenter.
“The deficiencies of diplomacy are due then to certain developments in the Foreign Office.”
'T'HE Asquith group seem to be cultivating the Canadian Associated Press and the special correspondents in London in an effort to regain respect in Canada. Note how constantly and favorably he is being played up by them in our newspapers. To many of us it looks as if the Asquithites were at the back of the campaign to get the Overseas ministers out of England, and many Canadian editors, because of their ignorance of Imperial conditions, are unwittingly their tools. The agitation is so general that it seems to be organized.
Sir Robert Borden and his colleagues are undoubtedly a source of great material as well as moral strength to Lloyd George and Clemenceau; to our magnificent fighting forces, to the splendid people who still live in the homes of our ancestors if they do not control the policies of the nation.
In self-defence we need our ministers there. There are still men in higher places in the Imperial service
who blacklist men for no other reason than that they are Australians or Canadians. In Washington they are still discussing the removal of Commodore Gaunt, C.B., an Australian, remarkably capable, but without family or political pull in London. He was to be replaced by the brother of a Cabinet Minister, the Earl of Derby So much opposition developed that the appointment was cancelled and Admiral Grant was sent instead. Commodore Gaunt had performed some of the most useful work in the war. In fact no man had done more to bring United States and Great Britain together. We were helpless until his arrival. He it was, who outwitted and fearlessly exposed Bernstorff in his work and propaganda. There are many who think he was called home by powerful intrigue just as General Sir James Grierson was got out of Berlin when he became too useful to the British. Equally outrageous treatment has been meted out to at least one Canadian in an important position—just because he was a colonial.
It is important for us to know this. It is important for the Little Englanders and Wee Canadians to know that the Colonies are part of the Empire—-that we in Canada, at any rate, intend to continue and to take an increasingly influential part in Imperial affairs. We won’t if Overseas statesmen do not make themselves felt in London. We won’t if they come home to village politics.
There is a tremendous amount of important work to be done at the present conferences in London, so great that the ministers have been unable to keep up with it intelligently. Common sense suggests not only prolonging their stay but, calling over to their aid a few of our big experts from civilian life.
We in Canada have made fearful sacrifices. Perhaps 750,000 of our people will be under arms, many killed or maimed before the war ends. We may have to give up what have become the necessities of life and slave to pay the current and future pensions, interests and other costs of a war largely brought upon the Empire by the criminal incompetency of the very Imperial statesmen seeking to weaken Lloyd George and already pressing their demands for a place on the Peace Councils, the men who refused to prepare and when war came conducted its great events in direct opposition to the naval and military experts, leading to the needless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of our best young men, to Churchill and Chamberlain with their fatal failures—^Gallipoli and Mesopotamia.
Yet here in Canada there are refutable daily newspapers so jealous, so —""iudiced, so narrow visioned, that they propose to withdraw Canadian support from Lloyd George—for that is what it means. They would leave the conduct of the war and the peace settlements to Imperial bounders like Sir F. E. Smith, even after reading his own story of his own career on this side and overlooking things he did not publish, but which they heard Ottawa, New York and Washington talking about.
Shall we call Borden home and leave Canadian prisoners in their abject misery ; to be neglected by the flabby negotiators— Lord Newton and General Belfield—who failed so conspicuously in 1917. Have you noticed how much more gently Germans are treating U.S. prisoners? They fear drastic reprisals from the Americans.
What do our brave men and women at the front think of such a policy? Bringing Borden home, leaving Asquith, Smith, Churchill, Chamberlain and men like them on the job! It is an injustice to them and to their families.