« AnteriorContinuar »
Settlements. His fine cruiser, the St. George, with the smaller vessels of his command, would have been more than sufficient to cope with any hostile force at all likely to threaten that region. The Admiralty, however, determined to be prepared for all emergencies. The Channel Fleet-the most powerful single squadron in the world-was ordered to complete its equipment and concentrate all its vessels, including the two brand-new ironclads the Majestic and the Magnificent, which were only out of the hands of the fitters a few weeks ago. At the same time a strong “Special Service Squadron ” commissioned, consisting of two first-class battle-ships, four fine cruisers, and half a dozen of the new fast torpedo-boat destroyers. Perhaps rather too much was made of this "Flying Squadron,” as it was popularly called. But it is undoubtedly a strong and efficient little fleet, and the fact that it could be equipped, manned, and actually sent to sea within little more than a week was a striking and valuable testimony to the magnitude of our naval resources. These energetic measures, and the outspoken tone of English comment, produced a speedy effect in Germany. Nor was the reception which the German aggression met with abroad calculated to encourage the Emperor. President Krüger acknowledged his telegraphed congratulations with a cold civility; the French, after a first burst of exultation at the prospect of a quarrel between their two great rivals, were indifferent; the Americans, in spite of their own dispute, were openly sympathetic with Great Britain in her refusal to submit to foreign dictation. Prince Hohenlohe was able to convince his Sovereign that a mistake had been made. The German press received a hint to modify its bellicose strains, and instead of thundering defiance, the more or less “inspired journals of Berlin and Cologne proceeded to explain away the Kaiser's message, and to wonder in innocent astonishment why their English colleagues were so needlessly exciting themselves. An interchange of letters is said to have occurred between the Queen and the Emperor ; it is possible—though I am not in a position to declare it certainthat something in the nature of an explanation was tendered by the German Foreign Office ; and by the beginning of the second week in
January the breeze was understood to have blown itself out, and the relations between the two countries to have resumed their normal condition.
The warning, however, cannot be thrown away on Englishmen, They have learnt how comparatively slight a cause may range upon the side of their enemies even that Power whose friendship they have done least to alienate. There were signs that the message was not merely the result of one of the Emperor's sudden impulses. It seems clear that the project of landing a force of German marines at Delagoa Bay had been entertained ; and it is noticeable that the telegram to President Krüger had been despatched after a prolonged conference between the Kaiser and the chief officers of his naval staff. The Emperor, like Dr. Jameson, may have delivered the final stroke off his own bat; but the game itself seems to have been planned and prepared. To those who have followed the course of recent international politics, the blow should almost have been expected. It has been evident for long that Germany, in her failure to draw England into a closer association with the Triple Alliance, has lost no opportunities of making this country feel the effects of her resentment. Germany has co-operated with Russia and France in depriving Japan of a large part of the fruits of the successful campaign against China ; she has assisted the same two Powers to render nugatory all Lord Salisbury's efforts on behalf of the Armenians. It must be admitted that, if this policy of vexation and annoyance has been adopted in order to force Great Britain to join the Central League, it is singularly maladroit. But that it has brought home to many minds in England the possible consequences of that isolation in foreign policy which has been so sedulously cherished, is certain. An increasing tendency to come to an understanding with Russia, and even with France, is discernible, even in quarters where hostility towards those two Powers is a tradition.
Much might be gained. if this sentiment is made use of to bring about a satisfactory settlement both in the Indo-Chinese peninsula
At the time of writing it is understood that the arrangement between England and France as to the delimitation of the Upper Mekong region and the frontier Shan State has been definitely concluded. No official statement as to the details of this settlement has yet been published, and I defer comment on it for the present.
and in the Far East. I have pointed out elsewhere that Russia must sooner or later obtain an open port on the Pacific. She should get this as the result of an Anglo-Russian understanding, while we, in return, are compensated by the acquisition of Chusan, at the mouth of the Yangtze. If our little jar with Germany leads us to see the necessity of coming to a clear arrangement with Russia, and that speedily, it will not have been wholly harmful.
I have left to the last the most important question of all. The momentous issue which is before the statesmen and the people of this country, dwarfing almost into insignificance all other political problems, is that of war or peace with the United States. A month ago the situation looked almost too serious for discussion. Grave it still is, but in the interval since I last wrote in these pages it has grown sensibly lighter. Elsewhere I have shown in detail how it is possible for the British Government to find an escape from the impasse if it will exercise the necessary self-command and statesmanship, and consent to depart somewhat from the absolutely immobile attitude of Lord Salisbury's despatch to Mr. Olney. Two convictions I believe I may claim, in my recent telegrams from Washington to The Daily Chronicle, to have brought home to the minds of intelligent Englishmen. I have, I hope, convinced them that, outside mercantile circles in a few of the Eastern cities, the whole overwhelming weight of American opinion is on the side of President Cleveland and Mr. Olney. And, secondly, I have shown that the request embodied in the famous Message of the one, and the despatches of the other, is not in America regarded as in any sense a menace or provocation to Great Britain. It is not the case of Venezuela which attracts attention and enlists sympathy, or even the Monroe Doctrine alone. What is at stake also is the principle of arbitration. This has assumed in the eyes of many Americans the character of a sacred cause, and if they fight for it, they will do so with a good deal of the sentiment with which the North went to war with the Secessionists six and thirty years ago.
Happily there is no need why they should fight. An arrangement perfectly honourable and satisfactory to both
parties is quite within the range of possibility, provided only that English statesmen will handle the question with a due recognition of the prime factor in the situation, which is the present disposition of the American people. I have indicated elsewhere in detail the various modes in which a settlement may be attempted. Here I can do no more than briefly summarise the various alternatives before Lord Salisbury.
(1) The Schomburgk line must be brought within the area of arbitration. I have produced evidence to prove that Lord Aberdeen practically abandoned the boundary arbitrarily fixed by the Anglo-Flemish engineer. In a despatch, which I have been enabled to publish, addressed by M. de Fortique, the Venezuelan Envoy in London in 1841, to the Foreign Secretary, a request was made that Mr. Schomburgk's boundary posts should be removed. Lord Aberdeen acceded to this request after trying to avoid the necessity of doing so by stating that he was "fully aware that the demarcation so made was merely a preliminary measure, and was open to future discussion between the Governments of Great Britain and Venezuela." If it was open to discussion in 1841, much more should it be discussed in 1896. And to the removal of the boundary posts no condition whatever regarding the Schomburgk line was attached.
(2) Secondly, the British Government might recognise the American Boundary Commission, or even suggest that it should be enforced by English assessors. There is no doubt that the suggestion would be heartily welcomed by American statesmen. A dual commission, including Englishmen of the same eminence and learning as Mr. White, Mr. Gilman, and Justice Brewer of the Supreme Court, would carry with it the greatest authority, and if its decision were in favour of Great Britain it would be loyally acquiesced in by the people of the United States.
(3) Lord Salisbury might lay the English case formally before the American Commissioners, with the intimation that, if they reported that there was a primâ facie ground for arbitration on the whole boundary question, he would be prepared to submit that question to a competent tribunal.
(4) The New York Times, and other influential American
journals, which welcomed my.efforts to enlighten the English public on the true position of affairs, have lately devoted a good deal of attention to showing that England can always put an end to the tension by direct negotiation with Venezuela. Not only The Daily Chronicle, but The Times and other London newspapers, which strongly supported
strongly supported Lord Salisbury's despatch to Mr. Olney, have written in the same sense. True, the Venezuelans themselves broke off diplomatic intercourse after the abortive transactions of 1886. But the knot is one which can be untied by a diplomatist so skilful as Lord Salisbury. Let it be understood that England is prepared to treat the whole question as open, instead of entrenching herself behind the now indefensible Schomburgk line, and I know that the good offices of the Washington State Department would be used to induce Caracas to beg for a resumption of diplomatic relations. If England can make an arrangement which Venezuela, even without arbitration, would consider satisfactory, the United States would have no desire to dispute it.
(5) Finally I have suggested what I have called an heroic way out of the present difficulty. Let England and the United States, in accordance with the Resolutions of Congress of April, 1890, and of the House of Commons of June, 1893, agree to a general Treaty, whereby all actual or prospective disputes between the two countries would be submitted to arbitration. As the greater includes the less, this Convention would cover the Venezuela controversy and every other. Thus, if the Boundary question could be in no other way arranged, it could not in any case lead to war. Such a Treaty, besides releasing us from the immediate risk, would be of incalculable benefit to the two nations, and would be hailed with boundless satisfaction by the people of both. This result could have been achieved by adding a single clause to the Behring Sea Arbitration Treaty before returning it, and the United States Government would have welcomed it in such a form.
I cannot believe that it will be impossible to settle this unlucky difficulty by adopting one or other of the courses suggested above. A war between Great Britain and the United States would be such an irremediable calamity, such a