« PreviousContinue »
MUSINGS WITHOUT METHOD.
IF we may believe what Mr George told a reporter at Marseilles, he went to San Remo as "the champion of the liberty of the world." Who appointed him to this office he does not tell us. We suppose that the office and the title were of his own choice. And we can more easily estimate the strength where with he bears the self-imposed burden when we remember that he asks the aid of no others than of his eminent secretary, Mr Philip Kerr, and of that great statesman and patriot, Lord Riddell, a nobleman who (we believe) holds no public office, and who always accompanies the Prime Minister to the deliberations of the Supreme Council.
to all intents and purposes his own Foreign Minister. At San Remo he spoke with his own voice and in his own name. He forgot, as he always forgets, that he lives and serves under a monarchy. He forget, a8 he always forgets, that Lord Curzon is still-in title at least - our Minister of Foreign Affairs. And as he dismisses from his mind both King and Cabinet, so he treats the House of Commons with contempt. "The champion of the liberty of the world" is not to be argued with. It may be true that he knows nothing about the world whose liberty he champions, that foreign countries are as strange to him as foreign languages, that he is at home nowhere save in Wales. But he is the elect of the people.
Mr George, then, is "the champion of the liberty of the world." He is much else be- Before he visited San Remo sides. He is Prime Minister he thought he had put France and Supreme Autocrat of for ever in her place. No Great Britain. He rules his sooner was a hand laid upon Cabinet, the Houses of Par- Frankfort, that ark of the liament, and the country with covenant, that sanctuary of an ignoranee and an assur- the Jew financier, that home ance which are all his own. of Sir Edgar Speyer, our disThe members of his Cabinet tinguished Privy Councillor, are content, it seems, to ac- than Mr George was loud in cept his instructions. He is his protestations. He W88
ready to prefer a false enemy to a true friend. He forgot in a moment that he had set his signature to the treaty of Versailles, and was prepared to renounce the most solemn engagements of Great Britain at the bidding of Germany and of Mr Keynes. Now treaties are nothing, if not binding. When Mr George signed the documents at Versailles, he accepted, on England's behalf, the responsibility of insisting that the provisions of the treaty should be loyally and accurately carried out. He pledged our honour, the honour of England, to France and to our other Allies, that the agreements which we had made should be duly respected. But the last man who had access to his ear whispered that the treaty was hard upon Germany, suggested that France was wholly unreasonable in demanding the indemnities and reparations which had been allotted to her, and persuaded him to come forth as the champion not of liberty but of the Boehe. France was not unnaturally indignant. Having suffered more than any other country in the war, she saw justice denied her, and expressed with an admirable candour the dislike and distrust inspired in her mind by "the champion of the liberty of the world."
San Remo he delivered the speech which he thought would be acceptable to M. Millerand. He declared, as he has declared a hundred times before, that Germany should pay to the uttermost farthing. He did not renew the promise, which he gave in the stress of a general election, that he would search Germany's pockets. But he was loud, for the moment, in denunciation of the Boche, and the French pretended to take comfort in what he said. An illusory comfort, surely, since the next speech which he delivers to another audience will be merely an echo of something else, and will probably give a flat contradiction to what was said at San Remo. And when we remember that this champion of liberty affects to speak with the voice of England, we may estimate the damage which he does to England's honour, the danger in which he involves our British Empire.
The career of Mr George should afford a salutary lesson to the friends of democracy. He stands where he does as the elect of the people. And he was elected by the people in 1918 because he made many rash promises, which he had not the power nor the intention to carry out. He cannot be removed for some years yet by any process known to politics, and he has ample time before him in which to complete the work of bringing upon us suspicion and distrust, At which he has begun. The most
However, Mr George never holds an opinion longer than it seems to ensure him breath of popularity, and he hastened to repudiate his new friendship for Germany.
reckless autoorat that has out toil or price the possessions
governed England for many a long year, he pretends to derive his power from the the people, which he defies, and his career will be chiefly useful, because in the period of reaction, to which all good citizens look forward, he will be held up as an awful warning to all those who prate about the blessings of popular government.
And Mr George's whole career ories out in elcquent protest against the position which he has filohed for himself in the State. The friend of the Boers, who escaped from a minatory mob in a policeman's uniform, he would have avoided war in 1914 had he dared, and he misled the public opinion of France and England by saying that we went to war merely for the sake of Belgium. A Chancellor of the Exchequer who made finance the vehicle of class hatred, he has seen his monstrous People's Budget, as he called it, exposed for the piece of hypocrisy that it was. The tree of land valuation, whose branches were to be heavily laden with refreshing fruit, is now out down to the earth. Of all the measures which have let loose the turbid torrent of his eloquence, soareely one is effective to-day. Whose fault is it that we are faced by a housing problem? Mr George's. By whose deliberate contrivance was it that the working classes were persuaded to believe believe themselves the victims of a gross injustice, and to demand with
of others? Mr George's. Indeed, to Mr George's account we may set down the most of the evils which beset our society; and in spite of it all he is to-day an untrammelled autoorat, with Cabinet ministers patiently waiting to take bis commands, and to carry out his wishes in all humbleness of spirit.
There is still another reason why Mr George should not be entrusted with full powers to make or mar the British Empire. There was when he insisted with praiseworthy iteration that "Cæsar's wife should be above suspicion." And having thoughtlessly oast Mr Joseph Chamberlain for the part of Cæsar's wife, he proceeded to vilify him without stint and without reason. He did not exact from himself the same scrupulous conduet which he exacted from others. The man who without knowledge or justice attacked Mr Chamberlain, was presently besmirched himself by the Marconi scandal. Bitterly did he then complain of the lies which were passed from one foul lip to another. Eagerly did he renounce the high standard which once he had set up for Cæsar's wife. It was of no avail. The "lies" were found to have in them a solid basis of truth, and Mr George emerged from the inquiry 80 deeply marked that, had he not been protected by a coat of triple brass, he would never again have entered the field of politics. And it would
have been vastly better for Great Britain had he remained outside. The Marconi affair was in a sense a test of the oharacter of English politieians. The mere fact that Mr George and Sir Rufus Isaacs were not asked to purge their offence has done our country an irreparable injury. It has sensibly lowered the level of our public life, and the constant advancement of the two speculators has proved that politics is after all nothing else than levity and cynicism. Mr George, when put upon his defence, pleaded, it will be remembered, that he was a poor man. Sir Rufus Isaacs, placed in the same awkward situation, confessed that he was a rich man. The one plea was as absurdly irrelevant as the other. Neither could deny that he had bought American Maroonis; neither could claim that he had been candid in his treatment of the House of Commons. And when the House exonerated its erring members, it struck a blow at parliamentary government from which it has not recovered.
It is in no spirit of malice that we remind our readers of the too quickly-forgotten Marooni affair. The position which Mr George holds makes it necessary that we should scrutinise most jealously all his deeds and all his words. He has gathered into his own hands all the power in the State, and it is the business of Englishmen to see that he is worthy of that power. Were
VOL. CCVII.-NO. MCCLVI.
his own happiness or prosperity alone at stake, we should not care a jot whether he had or had not enjoyed a flutter with that forgotten worthy, the Master of Elibank. It would be a matter of indifference to us whether he was able to distinguish between speculation and an investment or not But it is the happiness and the prosperity of Great Britain which are at stake; and we may well wonder whether the demagogue of fluent speech and fluid mind, who allows his audience to tell him what he shall say, who has no knowledge of the foreign affairs which he presumes to direct, who is guided in the business of government not by principle but by opportunity, whose hands were dipped in the Marconi affair, is fit to govern, uncontrolled and unrestrained, the British Empire, and to meddle, without let or hindrance, in the affairs of Europe. For our own part, we prefer him in the rôle, which he has carelessly assumed, of "champion of the liberty of the world." Assuredly he has no knowledge of what liberty means, and but blurred vision of the world and its boundaries. But he who defends a mere superstition or a solemn phrase cannot do much harm. He who without knowledge and without a plan attempts to govern an Empire may involve in his own ruin all those who have been foolish enough to trust him.
We have heard a great deal lately about the suspension
which are not Radical measures. They have broken definitely with the past, which once upon a time moulded their thoughts and determined their actions.
Remember for a moment what the Coalition has achieved during the last few years. In passing the Franchise Bill it created a silent revolution, of which we. have seen only the beginning. By giving an equal vote to women, it has taken the governance of the Empire out of the hands of the men, who made it and fought for it, and given it to the women, who cannot bear arms and have no political experience. If none of the church-burners has yet been able to wriggle into the House of Commons, the Viscountess Astor is there, to hold aloft the banner of feminism, and to show that the "people of Plymouth think it not incongruous to be represented by an American and a Peer's wife. The Franchise Bill was accepted, without comment, by these of the Coalition who professed themselves Tories.
of party warfare. Pompous Radical sentiments. They politicians tell us almost daily that we are none of us partisans, that we cry and strive not for a faction but for the State. And what the pompous politicians tell us is partly true. There is no party no party warfare, because the House of Commons has no other duty than to register the deorees of Mr George. Fearful though he be of the ballot-box, he will not permit criticism in the House. Our free and independent legislators dare not speak what is in their minds, if indeed their minds are not empty, lest they should not be safe in their seats at the next election. Therefore they hang upon the lips of Mr George; in whispered humbleness they assent to his decrees; and there is no party warfare, because there are no parties. In other words, the Coalition is no Coalition at all. It is a Radioal Government, openly confessed and unashamed. Those who once called themselves Tories, and who have now taken the ticket, are Tories no longer. The respect for tradition, the love of ancient ways, which once inspired their polioy, have long since been enveloped in the mist of forgotten things. To-day they are all for "the march of mind." Progress is their watchword, and they pretend to believe, as their Radioal colleagues believe, that they may safely pit their little intelligence against the accumulated wisdom of a thousand years. They utter no sentiments which are not
Then there is Mr Fisher's Education Act, happily a dead letter, and therefore not so dangerous as Mr Fisher's expressed intention of purchasing by grants of money the abject submission to the government of Oxford and Cambridge. Not a single Tory has raised his voice into opposition to the dangerous projects of this revolutionary minister, who has been publicly described by