The speech is still the sensation. It has rallied the Allies but it does not mean peace. Never thought it would. It has just placed us on the sound footing for war. It may weaken Austria.
When men by the million are being called upon to suffer and die, and vast populations are being subjected to the sufferings and privations of war on a scale unprecedented in the history of the world, they are entitled to know for what cause or causes they are making the sacrifice. See more
It is only the clearest, greatest and justest of causes that can justify the continuance even for one day of this unspeakable agony of the nations, and we ought to be able to state clearly and definitely, not only the principles for which we are fighting, but also their definite and concrete application to the war map of the world.
We may begin by clearing away some misunderstandings and stating what we are not fighting for. We are not fighting a war of aggression against the German people. Their leaders have persuaded them that they are fighting a war of self-defence against a league of rival nations bent on the destruction of Germany. That is not so. The destruction or disruption of Germany or the German people has never been a war aim with us from the first day of this war to this day. Most reluctantly, and indeed quite unprepared for the dreadful ordeal, we were forced to join in this war in self-defence. In defence of the violated public law of Europe, and in vindication of the most solemn treaty obligation on which the public system of Europe rested, and on which Germany had ruthlessly trampled in her invasion of Belgium, we had to join in the struggle or stand aside and see Europe go under and brute force triumph over public right and international justice. It was only the realization of that dreadful alternative that forced the British people into the war.
Nor did we enter this war merely to alter or destroy the imperial constitution of Germany, much as we consider that military, autocratic constitution a dangerous anachronism in the Twentieth Century. Our point of view is that the adoption of a really democratic constitution by Germany would be the most convincing evidence that in her the old spirit of military domination had indeed died in this war, and would make it much easier for us to conclude a broad democratic peace with her. But, after all, that is a question for the German people to decide.
I will not attempt to deal with the question of the Russian territories now in German occupation. The Russian policy since the revolution has passed so rapidly through so many phases that it is difficult to speak without some suspension of judgment as to what the situation will be when the final terms of European peace come to be discussed. Russian accepted war with all its horrors because, true to her traditional guardianship of the weaker communities of her race, she stepped in to protect Serbia from a plot against her independence. It is this honourable sacrifice which not merely brought Russia into the war, but France as well. France, true to the conditions of her treaty with Russia, stood by her ally in a quarrel which was not her own. Her chivalrous respect for her treaty led to the wanton invasion of Belgium; and the treaty obligation of Great Britain to that little land brought us into the war.
The present rulers of Russia are now engaged without any reference to the countries whom Russia brought into the war, in separate negotiations with their common enemy. I am indulging in no reproaches; I am merely stating facts with a view to making it clear why Britain cannot be held accountable for decisions taken in her absence and concerning which she has not been consulted or had her aid invoked.
No one who knows Prussia and her designs upon Russia can for a moment doubt her ultimate intention. Whatever phrases she may use to delude Russia, she does not mean to surrender one of the fair provinces or cities of Russia now occupied by her forces. Under one name and another -- and the name hardly matters -- these Russian provinces will henceforth be in reality part of the dominions of Prussia. They will be ruled by the Prussian sword in the interests of Prussian autocracy, and the rest of the people of Russia will be partly enticed by specious phrases and partly bullied by the threat of continued war against an impotent army into a condition of complete economic and ultimate political enslavement to Germany.
We all deplore the prospect. The democracy of this country means to stand to the last by the democracies of France and Italy and all our other Allies. We shall be proud to fight to the end side by side with the new democracy of Russia, so will America and so will France and Italy. But if the present rulers of Russia take action which is independent of their Allies we have no means of intervening to arrest the catastrophe which is assuredly befalling their country. Russia can only be saved by her own people.
If, then, we are asked what we are fighting for, we reply as, we have often replied: we are fighting for a just and lasting peace, and we believe that before permanent peace can be hoped for three conditions must be fulfilled; firstly, the sanctity of treaties must be established; secondly, a territorial settlement must be secured, based on the right of self-determination or the consent of the governed, and, lastly, we must seek by the creation of some international organization to limit the burden of armaments and diminish the probability of war.
On these conditions the British Empire would welcome peace; to secure these conditions its peoples are prepared to make even greater sacrifices than those they have yet endured.
The Allies should release Russia from the engagement entered into in the Pact of London not to make a separate peace, and that they should tell the Russian people that, realising the extent to which they are worn by war, and the effects of the disorganisation resulting from a great revolution, they would leave them to decide for themselves whether to obtain peace on Germany’s terms, or fight on with their Allies who were determined not to lay down their arms until they had obtained guarantees for the world’s peace.
Had a very trying time last weeks. Fighting almost with back to wall. Think I have for the time beaten off the attacks.
Neville Chamberlain has resigned and thank God for that.
It is a satisfaction for Britain in these terrible times that no share of the responsibility for these events rests on her. She is not the Jonah in this storm. The part taken by our country in this conflict, in its origin, and in its conduct, has been as honourable and chivalrous as any part ever taken in any country in any operation. See more
We might imagine from declarations which were made by the Germans, aye! and even by a few people in this country, who are constantly referring to our German comrades, that this terrible war was wantonly and wickedly provoked by England - never Scotland - never Wales - and never Ireland.
Wantonly provoked by England to increase her possessions, and to destroy the influence, the power, and the prosperity of a dangerous rival.
There never was a more foolish travesty of the actual facts. It happened three years ago, or less, but there have been so many bewildering events crowded into those intervening years that some people might have forgotten, perhaps, some of the essential facts, and it is essential that we should now and again restate them, not merely to refute the calumniators of our native land, but in order to sustain the hearts of her people by the unswerving conviction that no part of the guilt of this terrible bloodshed rests on the conscience of their native land.
What are the main facts? There were six countries which entered the war at the beginning. Britain was last, and not the first.
Before she entered the war Britain made every effort to avoid it; begged, supplicated, and entreated that there should be no conflict.
I was a member of the Cabinet at the time, and I remember the earnest endeavours we made to persuade Germany and Austria not to precipitate Europe into this welter of blood. We begged them to summon a European conference to consider.
Had that conference met arguments against provoking such a catastrophe were so overwhelming that there would never have been a war. Germany knew that, so she rejected the conference, although Austria was prepared to accept it. She suddenly declared war, and yet we are the people who wantonly provoked this war, in order to attack Germany.
We begged Germany not to attack Belgium, and produced a treaty, signed by the King of Prussia, as well as the King of England, pledging himself to protect Belgium against an invader, and we said, "If you invade Belgium we shall have no alternative but to defend it."
The enemy invaded Belgium, and now they say, "Why, forsooth, you, England, provoked this war."
It is not quite the story of the wolf and the lamb. I will tell you why - because Germany expected to find a lamb and found a lion.
I find in my diary that the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, invited me to breakfast in April 1917. Some third person was, I understand, to have been present, but he did not arrive, so that I found myself alone in the classic dining-room of No. 10, Downing Street, while my host was finishing his toilet. See more
Presently he appeared, clad in a grey suit, smart and smiling, with no sign at all that he bore the weight of the great European War upon his shoulders. Nothing could have been more affable or democratic, for there was no servant present, and he poured out the tea, while I, from a side table, brought the bacon and eggs for both. He had certainly the Celtic power of making one absolutely at one's ease, for there was no trace at all of pomp or ceremony—just a pleasant, smiling, grey-haired but very virile gentleman, with twinkling eyes and a roguish smile. No doubt there are other aspects, but that is how he presented himself that morning.
He began by talking about the great loss which the country had sustained in Lord Kitchener's death, speaking of him in a very kindly and human way. At the same time he was of opinion that long tropical service and the habit of always talking down to subordinates had had some effect upon his mind and character. He was a strange mixture of rather morose inactivity and sudden flashes of prevision which amounted to genius. He was the only man who had clearly foreseen the length of the war, and but for Turkey, Bulgaria, and other complications he probably overstated it at three years. There were times when he became so dictatorial as to be almost unbearable, and he had to be reminded at a Cabinet Council by Lloyd George himself that he was in the presence of twenty men who were his peers, and that he could not refuse them information or act above their heads. I confess that it struck me as very natural that a big man with vital knowledge in his brain should hesitate in a world crisis to confide it to twenty men, and probably twenty wives, each of whom was a possible leak. In spite of his genius Kitchener was not accessible to new ideas. He could not see clearly why such enormous munitions were necessary. He opposed tanks. He was against the Irish and Welsh separate divisions. He refused the special flags which the ladies had worked for these divisions. He was as remote from sentiment as a steam hammer, and yet he was dealing with humans who can be influenced by sentiment. He obstructed in many things, particularly in the Dardanelles. On the other hand, his steps in organizing the new armies were splendid, though he had attempted—vainly—to do away with the Territorials, another example of his blindness to the practical force of sentiment. Miss Asquith had said of him, "If he is not a great man he is a great poster," and certainly no one else could have moved the nation to such a degree, though the long series of provocations from the Germans had made us very receptive and combative.
Lloyd George was justly proud of the splendid work of the Welsh Division at the front. He had been to Mametz Wood, the taking of which had been such a bloody, and also such a glorious, business. He listened with interest to an account which I was able to give him of some incidents in that fight, and said that it was a beautiful story. He had arranged for a Welsh painter to do the scene of the battle.
He was interested to hear how I had worked upon my history, and remarked that it was probably better done from direct human documents than from filed papers. He asked me whether I had met many of the divisional Generals, and on my saying that I had, he asked me if any had struck me as outstanding among their fellows. I said I thought they were a fine level lot, but that in soldiering it was impossible to say by mere talk or appearance who was the big man at a pinch. He agreed. He seemed to have a particular feeling towards General Tom Bridges, of the 19th Division, and shortly afterwards I noticed that he was chosen for the American mission.
I talked to him about my views as to the use of armour, and found him very keen upon it. He is an excellent listener, and seems honestly interested in what you say. He said he had no doubt that in the problem of armour lay the future of warfare, but how to carry it was the crux. He said that the soldiers always obstructed the idea—which was my experience also—with a few notable exceptions. I mentioned General Watts of the 7th Division as being interested in armour, and he agreed and seemed to know all about Watts who, though a "dug-out," was one of the finds of the war.
He was much excited about the revolution in Russia, news of which had only just come through. The Guards had turned, and that meant that all had turned. The Tsar was good but weak. The general character and probable fate of the Tsarina were not unlike those of Marie Antoinette—in fact, the whole course of events was very analogous to the French Revolution. "Then it will last some years and end in a Napoleon," said I. He agreed. The revolt, he said, was in no sense pro-German. The whole affair had been Byzantine, and reminded one of the old histories.
It is with sentiments of the most profound satisfaction that the people of Great Britain and of the British Dominions across the seas, have learned that their great Ally Russia now stands with the nations which base their institutions upon responsible Government. See more
Much as we appreciate the loyalty and steadfast co-operation which we have received from the late Emperor and the Armies of Russia during the last two and a half years, yet we believe that the Revolution whereby the Russian people have placed their destinies on the sure foundation of freedom, is the greatest service which they have yet made to the cause for which the Allied peoples have been fighting since August, 1914. It reveals the fundamental truth that this War is at bottom a struggle for popular Government as well as for liberty. It shows that through the War the principle of liberty, which is the only sure safeguard of Peace in the world, has already won one resounding victory. It is the sure promise that the Prussian military autocracy which began the War and which is still the only barrier to Peace will itself before long be overthrown. Freedom is the only warranty of Peace, and I do not doubt that as a result of the establishment of a stable Constitutional Government within their borders the Russian people will be strengthened in their resolve to prosecute this War until the last stronghold of tyranny on the Continent of Europe is destroyed and the free peoples of all lands can unite to secure for themselves and their children the blessings of fraternity and of Peace.
There has for some time been deep discontent in Russia, of which there have been several manifestations, due to the inefficiency of the Government in the conduct of the War. On Friday, the 9th, some riots, due to the scarcity of food, occurred in the streets of Petrograd. This was, however, the occasion rather than the cause of the Revolution which immediately followed. See more
The soldiers who were commanded to take action against the rioters refused to obey orders, and gave their support to a committee, of which the President of the Duma was the head, which had been suddenly formed for the purpose of preserving order, and the control of the Government passed largely into the hands of this committee. Subsequently a strong Provisional Government was formed, of which Prince Lwoff is the head, and the Proclamation of this Government, as well as that of the Czar announcing his abdication for himself and his son, and that of the Grand Duke Michael, have appeared in the Press, and also the refusal of the latter, while placing his services at the disposal of the new Government, to accept the Throne unless called to it by the voice of the people, expressed in a constituent assembly. So far as our information goes, the Revolution has been brought about with very little bloodshed, and the new Government is receiving the support both of the country as a whole and of the Army and Navy. Our information, however, does not enable us to say that all danger is over, but it is satisfactory to know that the new Government has been formed for the express purpose of carrying on the War with increased vigour.
I have only to add, on behalf of the Government, that they believe that the Russian people will find that liberty is compatible with order, even in revolutionary times, and that free peoples are the best defenders of their own honour and safety.
They are confident that these events, marking as they do an epoch in the world and the first great triumph of the principle for which we entered the War, will result, not in any confusion or slackening in the conduct of the War, but in the even closer and more effective co-operation between the Russian people and its Allies in the cause of human freedom.