In February, 1901, a typical article from Sir Charles's pen appeared in the Figaro, strongly urging the absolute necessity for the creation of really cordial relations between Great Britain and France, which he considered were the sure and sufficient guarantee of European peace. It was true, no doubt, that the increasing strength and efficiency of the French army were a guarantee, up to a certain point, of peace with Germany, just as the weakness of the French army had been an active temptation to Germany in 1870 to attack France. The joint action of the Powers in China at the moment was also itself a sign of improved relations. Nevertheless, as Moltke had said, Germany would remain armed for half a century after 1870, if she intended, as she did intend, to keep Alsace-Lorraine; and as Europe had for the present to remain an armed camp, more could hardly be hoped than to maintain peace, however burdensome the cost. Europe, Sir Charles urged, should try to realize that a great war would probably be fatal, whoever might be the victor, to her commercial world-supremacy—as the great and ruinous burdens, which would everywhere result, would surely cause that supremacy to pass to America. There the development of the resources, not of the United States only, but also of the Argentine Confederation, ought to give pause to those who did not look beyond the immediate future and seemed unable to realize that a Europe laden with all the effects of some gigantic struggle would prove a weak competitor with the New World on the other side of the Atlantic. To remind Frenchmen that the English have not always been victorious in war was no very difficult task; but he ventured to remind Englishmen also that, as the English army was quite inadequate to take a large part in a Continental war under the changed conditions of modern warfare, Great Britain and France, while united, should more than ever walk warily, and distrust the counsels of those who occasionally in Great Britain spoke lightly of war. It was easy to talk about the victories of Marlborough and Wellington; but the military history of England was really a very chequered one, and of this Englishmen were, unfortunately, mostly unaware. Our military prestige had never been great in the commencement of our wars, and, as he had said in the recent debates on the Boer War, [Footnote: House of Commons, February 1st, 1900] we had too often had to "muddle through." On more than one occasion—in America, for example, during the Seven Years' War, and more recently in New Zealand—we had only been got out of our difficulties by the help of our own colonists. Here at least was a great future source of as yet undeveloped strength. The disastrous Walcheren Expedition was on record; even Wellington had had to retire over and over again in the earlier period of the Peninsular War; in the Crimea we had not shown any great military quality beyond the bravery of our troops. These were truths, unpalatable truths, but they had to be uttered, if on the one hand the cause of army reform in Great Britain was to prosper, and if on the other France was not to reckon too much on the assistance of a British army on the Continent of Europe, especially in the earlier stages of a war. [Footnote: Figaro, February 11th, 1901.]
In a cordial understanding with France, therefore, Sir Charles Dilke considered to lie the sheet-anchor of British foreign policy and the best guarantee of peace. In 1898 the arrival of the French force at Fashoda, on the Nile, had brought things to a crisis, and the firm attitude then adopted by Lord Salisbury at length convinced France, as Sir Charles always believed it would, that she must make her choice between Germany and Great Britain. In the action of Lord Lansdowne, who had succeeded Lord Salisbury at the Foreign Office in 1900, and in the policy eventually embodied in the Anglo-French agreement of 1904, Sir Charles recognized the views which persistently, but not always successfully, he had urged for many years on his own friends in France and England. But the new departure was only rendered possible by the appearance at the French Foreign Office of a statesman who, after the bitter experience of the final failure of the policy of "pin-pricks" before Lord Salisbury's firm stand in the Fashoda affair, boldly threw his predecessors overboard, and managed to make himself the inevitable Foreign Minister of France for a long period of years, successfully maintaining himself in office against every competitor and every rival, while other Ministers came and went. Late, perhaps too late, the policy of Gambetta was revived by M. Delcasse, and it held its own.
By 1903, owing to the complete change in the attitude of France, matters had so much improved as between England and the Republic that Sir Charles could write in the Empire Review of "An Arrangement with France" as possible, basing himself on recent articles in La Depeche Coloniale, which had been the extreme anti-British organ. "That the French colonial party should have come frankly to express the desire which they now entertain for an arrangement of all pending questions between the English and the French is indeed a return towards relations better than any which have existed since Gambetta's fall from power." But this improvement in the relations of the two countries was materially aided by the influence of the personality of King Edward VII., which Sir Charles fully recognized, as he also did one of the consequences, which was perhaps not so fully seen by others. "The wearer of the crown of England plays in foreign affairs," he wrote, "a part more personal than in other matters is that of the constitutional King. No one can deny that there are advantages, and no one can pretend that there are never drawbacks, attendant on this system. It is not my purpose to discuss it, but it makes the adoption in this country of control by a Parliamentary Committee difficult, if not impossible." [Footnote: English Review, October, 1909. Article by Sir C. Dilke.] "The great and sudden improvement in the relations between the English-speaking world and France is largely due to the wisdom and courtesy with which the King made clear to France that there was no ground for the suspicions which prevailed."
[Footnote: Quarterly Review, July, 1905, p. 313. Article by Sir C. Dilke. With France Sir Charles had for the moment again a certain official relation, having been placed on the Royal Commission charged with British interests at the Paris Exhibition—an honour due to him not only in his own right, but as his father's son. At this moment also, when relations between the neighbouring countries were severely strained, he gave to the Luxembourg the reversion of Gambetta's portrait, and sent the portrait itself to be placed among the works of Legros on exhibition in June, 1900. M. Leonce Benedez, curator of the Luxembourg, in writing to press for the chance of exhibiting the picture, said:
"Je m'excuse vivement de mon importunite, mais je serais tres desireux que notre public peut etre admis a juger Legros sur cette belle oeuvre. De plus, je serais, en meme temps, tres heureux que les amis de votre grande nation, plus nombreux que la sottise de quelques journalistes ne voudrait le laisser croire, fussent a meme d'apprecier la pensee elevee et delicate de l'illustre homme d'etat anglais qui, au milieu des circonstances presentes, a tenu a donner a notre pays une marque si touchante de sympathie en lui offrant le portrait d'un de ses plus glorieux serviteurs."
The exhibition drew Sir Charles and Lady Dilke for a summer visit to Paris, and it was during this visit that the sculptor Roty executed his medallion of Sir Charles.]
But wisdom and courtesy were not a little aided by the royal habit of mixing easily with men at home and abroad, just as, on the other hand, the long retirement of Queen Victoria had been injurious in an opposite direction. This feeling finds expression in the fragment of commentary in which Sir Charles dealt with the change of Sovereigns:
'The Accession Council after the Queen's death was a curious comment on history. History will tell that Victoria's death plunged the Empire into mourning, and that favourable opinion is more general of her than of her successor. Yet the Accession Council, attended almost solely by those who had reached power under her reign, was a meeting of men with a load off them. Had the King died in 1902, the Accession Council of his successor would not have been thus gay; there would have been real sorrow.'
Sir Charles thought hopefully of the situation at this moment, and there is a letter dated as far back as 1900 in which Mr. Hyndman noted the "unusual experience" of finding an Englishman who took a more favourable view of France than he himself, and expressed his fear that Sir Charles underrated "the strength of the National party." [Footnote: How well he understood France may perhaps best be judged by an article written, at the desire of M. Labori, for the Grande Revue in December, 1901. It is called "Torpeur Republicaine," and begins with the observation that English Radicals are tempted to think French Republicans more reactionary than any English Tories, for the reason that all English parties had practically, if not in theory, accepted municipal Socialism. "In France," he said, "the electors of certain cities return Socialist municipal councils. They are all but absolutely powerless. We, on the other hand, elect Tory or Whig municipalities, and they do the best of Socialist work."] But, notwithstanding the alliance of France with Russia, the action of Russia in the Far East in the period covered by the events which ended in the Japanese War had not diminished Sir Charles's rooted dislike of any idea of entente or alliance between Russia and Great Britain. He considered that Sir Edward Grey meant to be Foreign Secretary in the next Liberal Government, and was intent on making an arrangement or alliance with Russia to which he would subordinate every other consideration. "Grey," he wrote early in 1905 to Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, "has always favoured the deal with Russia. I hope I may be able to stay outside the next Government to kill it, which I would do if outside, not within. This," he said, alluding to the recent death of Lady Dilke, "assumes that I regain an interest in affairs which I have wholly lost. I am well, but can at present think of nothing but of the great person who is gone from my side." [Footnote: February 2nd, 1905.] At this time the old controversy was again raging, both at home and in India, over the question of the defence of the North-Western Frontier of India; and a recent Governor-General and his Commander-in-Chief in India, it was believed, had not altogether seen eye to eye. The latter was credited with very extensive views as to the necessity of an increase in the number of British troops, with a view to the defence of the frontier against Russian attack. Sir Charles put neither the danger of a Russian invasion nor the general strength of Russia as a military nation so high as did some who claimed to speak with authority; and he did not believe that we had any reason for constant fear in India or elsewhere, or to seek alliances, in order to avoid a Russian attack on India. The vulnerability of Russia on the Pacific, which he had always pointed to, was demonstrated in the Japanese War; as well as the miserable military administration of Russia, which he had indicated thirty-eight years before as a permanent source of weakness, certain to be exposed whenever Russia undertook operations on a large scale at any great distance from her base. [Footnote: In Greater Britain, ii. 299-312.] The Japanese alliance, he believed, could never be directly utilized for resisting in Afghanistan an attack by Russia on India. Happily, as he considered, the facts had demonstrated that there was no need for such a display of timidity as would be involved in marching foreign troops across India to defend it on the frontier. [Footnote: Monthly Review, December, 1905. It is to be observed that this argument does not involve any criticism of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty considered as a defensive measure elsewhere.]
But if he thought that an alliance with Russia was not a necessity for a sound British foreign policy, on the other hand he was equally convinced that a good understanding with the United States of America was such a necessity. He believed that if fresh subjects of difference were not created, and any remaining questions of difference—like the Fisheries— were settled, as the Alabama and Alaska questions had been settled, the old Jeffersonian tradition of suspicion of English policy would die out, even in the Democratic party, and that no obstacle would then remain to prevent the co-operation of all the branches of the race in a common policy.
In a speech made in June, 1898, he had referred to the improved relations with the United States in terms which gave credit for the improvement mainly to Sir Julian Pauncefote, then Ambassador at Washington, for whose services he had the greatest admiration. [Footnote: Sir Julian Pauncefote had previously been Permanent Under- Secretary for Foreign Affairs for many years.] When, in 1896, the question of Venezuela had threatened to make trouble between the two English-speaking Powers, he counted the claims of Great Britain in respect of the frontiers of Guiana as "dust in the balance" when weighed against the advantage of not "running across the national line of policy of the United States." He desired to sink all such petty affairs in a policy of Anglo-American co-operation in the Far East. Rivals for trade in China they must be, but the interest of both lay in working for the "open door" which admitted a friendly rivalry. He wrote in the American Independent for May 1st, 1899: "The will of the United States, if it be in accordance with the will of Great Britain and of the Australian Commonwealth—the will, in other words, of the English-speaking peoples—will be paramount in the Pacific if they are united"; and he was never weary of urging the improvement in England's relations with the United States which would follow from a friendly settlement with Ireland. [Footnote: In Present Position of European Politics, 1887, he had said: "I, for one, still have hope that the causes of strangement between Great Britain and the chief of her daughter-countries, which are mainly to be found in the friction produced by the Irish Question, may even within our lifetime be removed, and the tie of blood, and tongue, and history and letters, again drawn close." And in a note written later in his own copy are the words: "It is for the Americans of the United States to decide how far towards firm alliance this shall be carried." Cf. Life of Beaconsfield, iv. 231.]
Bearing in mind all these considerations, he believed, notwithstanding all the wars and the rumours of wars, that the Great Armageddon so much dreaded could be avoided by diplomacy combined with proper measures of defence. The long chain of events formed by the Sino-Japanese War, the Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, and the Russo- Japanese War, were in his opinion "secondary events," however important, appearing to threaten the peace of Europe from time to time—very disquieting, no doubt, and ominous occasionally of yet worse things—but things such as diplomacy had conjured away before, and ought to be able to conjure away again. He did not think that Morocco, long regarded at the Foreign Office as a danger-point, would ever prove a sufficient object to induce Germany to break the general peace. She would threaten, take all she could get, and then withdraw with the spoils, just avoiding the danger-point; and so it no doubt turned out to be in 1905-06 at the time of the troubles which ended in the Algeciras Conference. But he recognized the personal character of the German Emperor as a new factor of danger in the situation.
The essential point since 1871, he wrote in 1905, had been that there never had existed a serious and settled intention of making the much- dreaded "European War" on the part of any of those with whom the great decision rested. There was, he said, to the good this main consideration—that, if any Power had intended war, a sufficient pretext could always have been found, yet the war had not come. The security for the maintenance of the long "armed peace" was, in fact, this: that no Power had really intended war, or intended it now. What the consequences would be was too well known by the responsible leaders. The sudden heats which most seemed to jeopardize peace had arisen in regard to questions not of European importance, mostly outside Europe, where sometimes on one side or the other, and sometimes upon both, tactful treatment in advance, and what might be styled "a long view," would have saved the world from trouble altogether, and ought to do so in future under analogous circumstances, whenever the question of the Bagdad Railway and the remaining questions relating to Africa came up for final settlement. [Footnote: English Review, October, 1909.]
The guarantee of peace he believed to lie in the policy of ententes, but on condition that the policy begun by Lord Lansdowne and M. Delcasse should aim at agreement between two Powers only, and be limited to specific objects. [Footnote: See the same opinion expressed in 1871, Vol. I., p. 133.] Beyond this it was dangerous to go. An entente between more than two Powers, as distinct from one between two only, reminded him of an American game of cards which he had seen played in the Far West. This game when played by two persons was called euchre, but when played by three persons was called by another and very disagreeable name, because it so frequently ended in the use of knives. The Franco-Italian agreements of 1898 and 1900, the Anglo-French agreement of 1904, the Franco-Spanish agreement of 1904, the agreements between Japan and Russia which had followed and grown out of the Portsmouth Treaty of September, 1905, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty which followed, and the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907 as to Persia, were guarantees for peace, because they came within the above definition. It does not appear, however, that he considered the alliance of France and Russia, dating so far as was then known from 1895, as a real guarantee for peace, or that he shared the later views attributed to Gambetta, of the desirability of an entente between Great Britain, France, and Russia.
[Footnote: "M. Gaston Thomson publishes in the Matin extracts from letters by Gambetta to M. Ranc. In one letter, written apparently at the time of the crisis of 1875, Gambetta says:
"'You must know that the forger of the Ems despatch is about to commit another act of treachery. But our calmness and self-possession will prevent us from falling into the same trap as in 1870. The croakings of a sinister raven will not plunge us into folly this time. He has understood his mistake. He has been able to transform a divided and impotent Germany into a great, strong, disciplined Empire. For us and for himself he was less well inspired when he exacted the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, which was the germ of death for his work.... Until they have remedied this error no one will disarm. The world's peace, which is so necessary for all peoples, will remain always at the mercy of an incident.' In order to prepare France to meet the future, Gambetta strove to bring about the alliance which to-day unites France, Great Britain, and Russia. In a striking passage he writes:
"'The number and importance of Russia's difficulties grow every day. L—— keeps the Prince of Wales informed day by day of the difficulties of that Power. The political ambitions of Russia will be impeded by Austria, who is already assuming a hostile attitude. She is exerting pressure upon Rumania. Do you see, as a consequence, Austria allying herself with Rumania and Turkey against Russia? What a conflict!
"'The Prince of Wales, however, foresees it. He does not share the hostility of a section of the English nation against Russia. With all his young authority he fights against measures which may be prejudicial to Russia. I see in him the makings of a great statesman....
"'I desire that our enemies should be Russia's enemies. It is clear that Bismarck wants an alliance with the Austrians. Russia must therefore be made to see that we might be her ally.... Since the Revolution our country exerts great influence in Europe. Before long I see Russia and England at our side, if we only have a proper internal policy.'" (Times, December 30th, 1915).]
He was strongly convinced that the improvement of the French army since 1871 had been so great that it afforded by itself a sufficient reason to give Germany pause, and he believed that the German Emperor considered the French army better in some respects than his own. [Footnote: Baron Beyens says that in 1911 it was the general opinion that in many respects the French was in advance of the German army (L'Allemagne avant la Guerre, p. 229). Ibid., p. 220.] An alliance between the two Western Powers and Russia might, in given circumstances, on the one hand encourage the party of revanche and push the country into dangerous adventures, and on the other tempt the war party in Germany to try again some extreme course, as it had in 1875.
From this point of view Dilke regarded with suspicion and anxiety the journeys of the King on the Continent after 1905, unaccompanied by a Secretary of State according to the ancient constitutional practice, but accompanied by the Permanent Under-Secretary of State from the Foreign Office, a former Ambassador to St. Petersburg. This gave plausible opportunities for encouraging the belief then prevalent in Germany that some mysterious policy was being devised, outside the ordinary channels of diplomacy and Parliamentary knowledge—a policy which, with the aid of France and Russia, was to take the shape of encircling Germany with enemies, and cutting her off from legitimate development. These anxieties were stimulated by a considerable amount of foolish writing in London newspapers, and still more foolish and unauthorized talk.
"France and Russia," he wrote in 1908, "are drawn together by geographical considerations—given the detachment of French territory to the benefit of Germany in 1871. It did not need the parade of an alliance to cause Kings and statesmen to recognize the fact. War was made impossible in 1875—the last occasion when the well-informed thought renewed German attack on France probable—by the absolute refusal of the German Emperor; but behind that refusal lay the certainty that Russia would not forward the aims of the Prussian military party, as she had done, for a consideration, in 1870. It is, perhaps, too trivial a suggestion, but one which comes inevitably to the mind, that the householder is apt to be friendly with the man who lives next door but one, on account of their common dislike of their next-door neighbour. During the 'reign of force,' still extant upon the Continent of Europe, a more appropriate simile may be found in the proverbial habit of each of two men, in a street fight, frightening his opponent by recognition of a personage in the background. That Germany, however ambitious, and however boastful of her military strength, should be rendered nervous by the menace of Franco-Russian co-operation is a consideration modified only by the universal recognition of the desire of France for self-respecting peace. As soon as another Power is suspected of any intention of making use of the Franco-Russian co-operation for the purpose of isolating Germany, a dangerous situation has arisen.
"We are so confident in our own profound knowledge of our wish for European peace that we hardly realize the extreme danger for the future which is caused by all suggestion that we have succeeded in isolating Germany, or are striving to bring about that result. The London articles written in violent support of a supposed alliance did the harm; and to anyone who keeps touch for himself of Continental opinion the harm was undoubted, and tended to produce several undesirable results.
"There is a word to be addressed to those who believe that our navy is our true defence, until the progress of pacific thought in the working classes of all countries has rendered the other Powers as peaceful as France. Those who crowed over the isolation of Germany took the best means of increasing the German Fleet, and contributed at the same time, by the proposed inflation of our expeditionary force, to the weakening of the British Navy.
"The true explanation of the entente, and it needs no better, is to be found in the defence of its essentially pacific nature by one of its original authors, M. Delcasse. [Footnote: M. Delcasse had to resign office in 1905, under German pressure, in connection with the controversies about Morocco.] He had his faults as a Minister, and on two occasions provoked alarms or dangers, which afterwards, however, he did more than any other man to allay. Should circumstances change and European war become likely, as it has not in fact been likely since 1871, the basis for our alliances, if we needs must have them, lies in our peaceful policy, our vigour, and our fleet.
"Thanks to the alarm itself, which the harum-scarum articles excited, prudence will once more gain control of our foreign affairs. The entente will continue: Italy, we may hope, will not once more be scared out of her improved relations with Powers outside the Triplice. Recent occurrences may be turned to useful end, by courage in speaking out displayed by those who insist that a policy, profoundly peaceful in fact, shall not be exposed to being represented as directed against any one of the European Powers."
Italy, he believed—and events have justified the forecast—would be compelled by the pressure of circumstances to leave the Triple Alliance. How far Germany would be able to keep a permanent hold on Austria- Hungary might also, he thought, be doubtful, as it would largely depend on the developments of home issues in Austria itself, as to which prophecy was always rash. Like other statesmen of an older school, he still probably clung to the hope that the Dual Empire might yet be gradually converted into a Federal State, in which the Slavonic populations of the Empire would play a larger part and would not submit to take marching orders from Berlin in regard to policy in the Balkans. [Footnote: A short time before his death, in 1902, Lord Kimberley said to Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice: "If ever there is another Liberal Government—which is perhaps doubtful—Grey or you, or both of you, may have something to say to foreign affairs. Now, remember, there is on no account to be any quarrelling with Austria. She has been the only steady friend we have had in Europe—I mean since 1866. The Hungarians have always been our friends. So, I repeat, no quarrelling with Austria. I have said the same thing to Grey." (Notes communicated by Lord Fitzmaurice). See, too, the opinion of M. Ribot, cited in Rene Henry's Questions d'Autriche-Hongrie, pp. 176-178: "Quant a l'Autriche, nos rapports avec elle ont toujours ete bons; ils ont ete pleins, non seulement de courtoisie, mais de quelque chose de plus; parceque l'Autriche sait que, de toutes les puissances europeennes, la France est la derniere qui pourrait souhaiter que l'Empire d'Autriche, garantie necessaire de l'equilibre europeen, se brisat et disparut pour le malheur de l'Europe." (Speech in the Senate, March 11th, 1903). An interesting collection of opinions on the development of Austria into a federal State, and the probable results on the Balkan Peninsula, will be found in the last chapter of the work of Dr. Aurel Popovici, Die Vereinigten Staaten von Gross-Oesterreich (Leipzig, 1906).]
Both in 1908 and 1909, in the debates on the Foreign Office Votes in the House of Commons, Sir Charles had expressed apprehensions of the development of Great Britain's entente with Russia, in regard to Persia, into something far more extensive, and therefore dangerous—into something, in fact, very like an "alliance." He feared that in the Bosnian question it had been pushed to extreme limits. The result, he said, had been to lead to a diplomatic humiliation. He claimed also that recent debates in the French Chamber, which had taken place at the time of the fall of M. Clemenceau's Ministry in the later half of 1909, showed that a large body of French opinion shared this view. [Footnote: See, for a summary of these views, an article by Sir C. Dilke in the English Review of October, 1909, p. 495; and Hansard for 1908, cxviii., 955-970; and for 1909, vol. viii., 621-635.]
With these preoccupations present to his mind he spoke on the last occasion on which he addressed the House of Commons at any length on foreign affairs—on July 22nd, 1909—when the policy of Sir Edward Grey in regard to the final annexation of Bosnia and the Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary was discussed on the Foreign Office Vote. He attacked this policy because it seemed to confirm the belief in the alleged tendency of the Foreign Office to extend the Anglo-Russian arrangement in regard to Persia into a general entente, with the probable result of producing exactly the opposite of the result intended, and of thereby strengthening the consolidation of the Central Powers. The diplomatic admissions and confessions of Lord Salisbury, both before and at the time of the Berlin Congress of 1878, had, he thought, made it difficult for the Foreign Office to take any decided stand against the final annexation, which the existing position had been certain to cause sooner or later. Turkey and Servia both complained. He did not deny that the Turkish Revolution brought about by the so-called "Young Turks," who were the cause of the crisis in the Balkans, held out some possible prospect of a future less hopeless than the previous state of things; but this might have been conceded without expressing "unreserved approval of a military pronouncement attended by a good deal of hanging." Servia also, no doubt, might be said in some degree to represent democratic principles upon the banks of the Danube; but he thought it difficult to reconcile the expression before a rather cynical Europe—and in very strong language, too—of our official horror at the conduct of the Servians in the barbarous murder of their King and Queen, with our joining Russia so very soon afterwards in a support of Servia against Austria-Hungary too absolute even for French concurrence.
Lord Salisbury, he fully believed, had become acquainted in 1877, if not before, with the substance of an agreement between Russia and Austria which contemplated, amongst other things, the annexation by the latter of the Provinces; and it was perfectly clear, from what passed at the Berlin Congress, that in 1878, before the meeting, Lord Salisbury must himself have concluded an engagement with Austria-Hungary, though the word "annexation," no doubt, did not appear in it, and more general terms probably were used, but containing no reservation, and promising support to the Austrian policy in those Provinces. Technically the engagement might have lapsed with the treaty, and probably it had; but the fact remained, with its moral consequences. Meanwhile Lord Beaconsfield had taken Cyprus from Turkey, and had given a greater shock to Europe, by the form and the secrecy of the proceedings, than could possibly attach to the recent unilateral action of Austria-Hungary. During the proceedings at Berlin, it must also be remembered, Lord Salisbury had practically promised Tunis to France. Turkish sovereignty was technically, indeed, still maintained in Cyprus, as it also had been for thirty years in Bosnia and the Herzegovina, [Footnote: See, on the whole subject. Hanotaux, La France Contemporaine, vol. iv., pp. 314, 363-370; Etudes Diplomatiques: La Politique de l'Equilibre, by the same author, p. 184. A secret clause was signed on July 13th, 1878, by the Austro-Hungarian Plenipotentiaries, in which the occupation was described as temporary and ordered to be the subject of a special arrangement with Turkey. The secret clause was really made to save the face of the Turkish Plenipotentiaries on their return to Constantinople.] and as it was at that time in the Sudan; but at no time did the Turks expect to see those territories again under their effective sovereignty. Insistence on the letter of the treaty also weakened our position in regard to Crete, where, as he had so frequently contended, nobody could wish or believe the position made by the treaty to be permanent. Lastly, he insisted that the policy into which we had been drawn by M. Isvolski had been damaging to our interests, not only because it had strengthened the ties between the members of the Triple Alliance, but because it assisted the popularity in Germany of a naval rivalry, which oppressed us with the cost of ever-increased armaments at sea.
Sir Edward Grey, he went on to say, had taken for his text the declaration of the London Conference of 1871 as to the denunciation by Russia, in 1870, of the Black Sea clauses of the treaty of 1856. But Russia got her way, and had practically been told she would get it on the main question before the Conference met. When in 1885 Eastern Roumelia was swallowed by Bulgaria, all the Great Powers theoretically protested, but nothing came of their remonstrance. In 1886 Russia broke the article of the treaty which related to the port of Batoum; and Lord Rosebery, no doubt, wrote a despatch based on the same doctrine as that now adopted by Sir Edward Grey. But Lord Rosebery at least avoided introducing new matters. His final despatch concluded with the words: "It must be for other Powers to judge how far they can acquiesce in this breach of an international engagement." Russia again succeeded. Why, then, have complicated the original issue in the present case by joining with Russia and France, at the instigation of the former, in putting forward suggestions to be considered at a European Conference for the territorial expansion of Servia, if possible to the Adriatic, and in regard to the Danube, that thorniest of diplomatic subjects? [Footnote: "L'independance des bouches du Danube est pour nous un dogme" were the words attributed to Count Andrassy in June, 1877 (Hanotaux, La France Contemporaine, iv. 315). See, too, the opinion of Radetzki, quoted by Rene Henry, Questions d'Autriche-Hongrie, p. 128.]
"Our action," Dilke argued, "in such matters ought to be, as it generally is, to bring people together for public peace, and not to interfere with matters where our interfering in details is certain to be resented. Of course, there was more than this in the German resistance. That resistance was always, I think, certain. It was certain to be provoked by common action on the part of the three Powers in such matters, but it was doubly caused by the indiscreet language used, not by us, but by the Press, in support of the three Governments, and officially in Russia. We heard talk about Russia having at last completely joined two Western Powers in an anti-Austrian movement, and articles headed 'Revelations of a New Triple Alliance' were calculated to intensify opposition on the part of Austria and Germany.
"The net result has been a set-back, not so much for us as for our supposed and suspected client, Servia. Servia has had her position very much worsened by our interference on her behalf. It is unfortunate that small Provinces in the Balkans should be in this position, that when Powers who are not going to fight appear to take up their cause against neighbouring Powers, however natural and wise it may be in the abstract, the result is almost certain to be to make their position worse; and undoubtedly there has been a set- back, caused by us and Russia, to Servia. We have not even with us our Mediterranean ally Italy, because Italy herself abstained from supporting us in this matter, as she was bound to abstain under her engagements. I therefore end this part of the matter by saying I think we have set the doctrine of the sacredness of the Treaty of Berlin, in the circumstances, too high. We have had two previous examples of the risk of setting up that doctrine, and pressing it too far, in such a case. We have tried to set it up on two previous occasions, and have failed. The second of those two occasions, in 1886, is very clear. There was a distinct violation of an article of the Treaty of Berlin, and of the protocol outside that article. Lord Rosebery wrote a strong despatch with regard to that violation, and he raised the same comparison of 1871 as we raised on this question, but nothing happened. That is a very long time ago, and the Treaty of Berlin has not become more sacrosanct since 1886 than it was at that time, which was more near its conclusion. My main point is, we have supported principles that we could not justifiably or wisely support. If we had had any political or European idea behind us, any idea of improving the conditions of peoples, or of giving greater liberty to the peoples, the country would have been more inclined to give support than it is on the mere bare doctrine of the sacredness of a treaty. On the last occasion when these matters were discussed, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a most brilliant speech on the Naval Vote of Censure. In that speech he defended what is very near the old doctrine of the balance of power in Europe. No one will take exception to his statement of the effect of the existing balance upon our position in Europe. The danger is now, as it was 100 years ago, and still more 120 or 130 years ago, that you may be tempted by these understandings, which are good, to convert them into something very near, but not quite, an alliance, and to pursue a policy in support of the balance of power which will keep you in permanent hot water all round with everybody, and will risk war."
How far the belief in the existence of a policy of encirclement, as the current phrase went, which existed in Germany from 1905 to 1909, [Footnote: See Hanotaux, La Politique de l'Equilibre, chap, xxiii.; Reventlow, 279, 296-305; Baron Beyens, L'Allemagne avant la Guerre, pp. 220-221.] was justified is a matter which the historian of the future will have to discuss. Certain it is, however, that the British Foreign Office after 1909 gave no just cause of offence to Germany. The disappointing outcome of supporting Russia in the negotiations connected with Bosnia; the failure at this time of the Entente to produce any satisfactory results in Crete and in various negotiations at Constantinople, where French policy was deemed to be influenced by considerations more financial than political; the friendly reception of King Edward VII. at Berlin in February, 1909, and the great changes which death or retirement brought about, in the years immediately succeeding, in the personnel of the Ministries of Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Italy—amongst others the retirement of the German Chancellor—produced a new situation. [Footnote: Hanotaux, La Politique de l'Equilibre, chap, xviii.; Reventlow, p. 339. Prince von Buelow resigned on July 20th, 1909; M. Clemenceau on July 14th, 1909; M. Isvolski and M. Tittoni in October, 1910; and Count Aerenthal in February, 1912.]
In 1910 things seemed to point again to the possibility of clearer skies. The negotiations between Germany and Great Britain in regard to the Bagdad Railway and the still outstanding African questions were resumed, and proceeded without any serious hindrance. Favourable results seemed, and with good reason, to be in sight. There were also negotiations between Germany and Russia. Thus it was that, a few days before he passed away, Sir Charles was justified in still writing in a hopeful strain that the Great War could and would be avoided—fortunate at least in this, that he did not live to see the breaking up of the foundations of the great deep. [Footnote: In his recently published work, England and Germany, 1740-1914, Mr. Bernadotte Schmitt says, speaking of the beginning of the year 1911—prior, it is to be remembered, to the Agadir incident: "In the early summer of 1911, Anglo-German relations, if not cordial, had lost much of the animosity engendered by the Bosnian troubles of 1908 and the naval scare of 1909. The German Emperor had been well received when he attended the obsequies of his uncle, Edward VII., and again on the occasion of the unveiling of the national monument to Queen Victoria in May, 1911. On the 13th of March of the same year, Sir Edward Grey had remarked upon the friendly relations obtaining with all the Powers.... In Germany the death of Edward VII., who passed for the inspirer of the Einkreisungs Politik, caused a feeling of relief." Speaking of the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the war, the same author observes: "Whatever Germany's motives may have been, the fact remained that in July, 1914, Anglo-German relations were more cordial than they had been at any time since the Boer War.... The tragedy of the Great War lies in the fact that early in the summer of 1914 a substantial agreement had been reached between Great Britain and Germany on those matters about which they had previously disagreed" (pp. 195, 373). This book, by an American Rhodes Scholar of the Western Reserve University, is a very valuable and impartial contribution to the history of recent events. On the condition of things in 1911 and 1912, see also the despatches of Count Lalaing and Baron Beyens, from London and Berlin, to M. Davignon, the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, published in the official German White book, Belgische Actenstuecke, 1905-1914, pp. 85, 113.]
THE LAST YEARS
Call no man happy or unhappy, said the philosopher, till you see his end. With Sir Charles Dilke's life clear before us, if the question be put, "Was he happy?" only one answer can be given. He was happy. With a power of suffering which made bereavement poignant, with tragic experience of disappointment and distress, he never lost the faculty of enjoyment: he touched the world at many points, and his contact was complete and vital.
Therefore, in the life that he lived after his second wife's death there was nothing gloomy or half-hearted. At Pyrford and Dockett the same interests continued to hold their charm, though in his home of homes, the home that he did not make, but was born into, there was a change. At 76, Sloane Street, he still slept, breakfasted, and did his morning's work; but he would never willingly return there for dinner, except on very rare occasions when he entertained guests, or spend the evening there.
He still enjoyed the life of the House of Commons. Old friends were a pleasure, new-comers a fresh spring of interest, and the younger men naturally drew round this most willing teacher. One of the young Liberals [Footnote: Mr. A. F. Whyte, M.P.] who came within his influence describes the amazing interest of his talk, with its personal memories of the leading personalities in Europe during half a century past. But the true attraction was something simpler than that. "He made you extraordinarily fond of him."
What is implied in that very simple phrase has been set out by another friend of an opposing political school, brought into touch with him by a common interest in Social Reform: [Footnote: Mr. J. W. Hills, M.P.]
"What first brought us together I forget; I think it was some action I took with regard to sweated trades. At any rate he asked me to stay for a Sunday at Dockett Eddy; and after my first visit I went often. For one thing, we were both devoted to rowing; he was, of course, a far more distinguished and accomplished oarsman than I, but he and I went extraordinarily well together in a pair. Everyone who has rowed knows that pair-oar rowing is the most difficult, as it is the most fascinating, form of the art. We had many long rows together.
"The life at Dockett Eddy had an atmosphere and a colour different from that of other houses. Breakfast was at a fairly early hour. After breakfast, Dilke was invisible till lunch. Lunch was at 12.30, French in character, and always, wet or fine, took place on the broad verandah which ran along one side of the house. During the afternoon Dilke rowed on the river, walked about the green and winding paths of his beloved willow-clad island, and talked to his friends. The prevailing recollection that I shall always have of Dockett Eddy is good talk. No one who did not talk to Dilke knew the man. His speeches—at any rate, from 1906 to his death—did not give all his qualities. These came out in his talk. His amazing knowledge, which occasionally overloaded his speeches and diverted them from their main argument, wove itself naturally into the texture of his talk and gave it a wonderful richness and depth. And he talked to everybody and on all subjects; and to all he brought his tremendous vitality and his vivid and many-sided personality. You always felt that the whole force of the man was behind what he said—the active, eager, questioning mind, determined to master all facts that gave true knowledge, and when this was done, when all facts were noted and weighed, coming to a conclusion which was both clear-cut and unalterable. He was most tolerant of the views of others, and never overwhelmed with greater knowledge; but all that he had in him he gave freely and without stint. The talks I recollect best are either on industrial conditions in other countries, or on French history from 1848 onwards, or on English politics. On French history I always listened to him with delight; he not only knew literally every fact and every date, but he also knew personally most of the great men who had latterly played leading parts. On English politics it was characteristic of the man to have a tremendous belief in the present. For instance, I said something about the decadence of Parliament and Parliamentary speaking. He at once burst out: 'You are quite wrong. The men of to-day are much greater than their predecessors'; and then he went through all our prominent politicians and compared them with the men of the past. The only comparisons I remember are Winston Churchill with his father, and Asquith with Disraeli and Gladstone, in each instance to the advantage of the present generation.
"Dilke was a great man, if ever there was one. He was a man of big ideas, too big for prejudice or suspicion or self-interest. His mind was at once imaginative and matter-of-fact, making him that rare combination, a practical idealist. But the abiding memory which I shall retain of him as long as I live is not his wide knowledge, his singleness of purpose, his vital energy and driving force, so much as the friendship he gave me. He put the whole of himself into his friendship, and gave himself abundantly and without reserve. He was so great a man, and meant so much to his friends, that he played a large part in the lives of all he honoured with his regard. Though I only knew him during the last three years, he filled so big a place in my life that his death left a wide and empty gap. I regarded him with love and veneration."
"He talked to everybody and on all subjects," and he talked to everybody on a common ground of fellowship. Newman, the cabdriver at Shepperton, beside whom he always insisted on sitting when he came to Dockett; Jim Haslett, his ferryman; Busby, his old gardener and lodge-keeper at Pyrford: these no less than "Bill" East who rowed with him, and "Fred" Macpherson with whom he fenced, keep the same memory of his friendliness and of the pleasure that they had in being with him. For his constituents he was more than a representative: he was their friend, a personal influence, a centre of affection in the lives of many among them. "I hardly know what to do or say," wrote one of them after his death. "For one man to say of another it seems strange, but I loved Sir Charles."
Into this affection there entered that peculiar tenderness of loyalty to the wronged which finds fit expression in these words of his old comrade, Judge Steavenson, who had known his life since they were young athletes together in the Trinity Hall boat: "I loved him, my oldest and best friend, and how I mourn him! The tragedy of his life has been pain and suffering to me for more years than I care to remember. Some say a little band of friends never wavered in their belief in his innocence. I am one, and so believing in good time I shall go to my grave."
Many a brave man has under the sense of injustice grown hard and bitter; it was not so with Sir Charles. After his death a friend's widow wrote to one who mourned him: "I should like to tell you how divinely kind he was to me in my great grief." A lady who for long years had been on a bed of pain said of his visits to her: "He seems to take your suffering from you and give it back to you on a higher plane. I think he understands because he has suffered so much himself."
In these last years after Lady Dilke's death, Sir Charles resumed, in some moderate degree, the old habit of travel. From 1906 it grew to be an institution that, when the Trade-Union Congress closed its sittings in autumn, he should meet the editor of this book and her friend Miss Constance Hinton Smith, [Footnote: Who attended these Congresses as visitors representing the Women's Trade-Union League.] and with them proceed leisurely from the trysting-place to Dean Forest for his annual visit to the constituency. Thus in different years they set out from Tewkesbury, from Bath, from Leicester, from Ipswich, and explored towns and country places of beauty or historic interest, under the guidance of one who had the gift for placing every detail in its setting, whether on the physical map of England or on that crowded chart which depicts the long course of British history. For him these journeys were each a revisiting of places seen before—seen, as he would often recall, under his grandfather's guidance in boyhood.
The annual Christmas visit to Paris, where his son often joined him, was revived in company of his secretary, Mr. Hudson, and his wife. In more than one autumn, after his stay in the Forest of Dean was completed, he made a journey through Switzerland to the Italian lakes. He journeyed under a resolution not to visit any gallery of pictures, for these must recall too poignantly the companionship which had made the special joy of all his picture-seeing. But he sent his companions that they might compare their impressions with his memory, always astonishingly vivid and exact. The sights to which he gave himself were sun and air, mountain and lake. Here, as in England, trees especially appealed to him, and in the famous garden of the Isola Madre on Lago Maggiore he amazed the gardener by his acquaintance with all the collection, from the various kinds of cypress and cedar down to the least impressive shrub. But what gave him most pleasure was the actual journeying, awakening not only associations with the places seen, but memories of other places in far-off corners of the earth.
In the last year of his life the International Association for Labour Legislation met at Lugano, and he stopped there on his autumn tour. His health was already failing, he attended no meetings and received few visitors; but experts in the subject, Ministers and ex-Ministers of Labour from Prussia, France, Canada, and other countries, sought him, to consult him on points of international policy. Two years later, when the Congress met again at Zurich, M. Fontaine recalled the memory of Sir Charles and the "conseils precieux" which other workers drew from him in their interviews. It was only when the Congress was over that the holiday really began, with a day on Maggiore and two days on Orta, before the travellers made for their real destination, Aosta among its hills, a scene new to him as to them, that filled him with fresh life. All about it charmed him: the mountains, the Roman gateways, the mediaeval cloisters, the long procession of the cattle coming down from the hill-slopes during the night; the keen air gave him energy to walk as he had never thought to walk again; and, for a touch of familiar humours, the landlord of the rough little inn where they stayed had been in his day a waiter in Willis's Rooms and remembered his guest among the diners there.
An accident to one of his companions had caused him to go on alone, and, accordingly, when he came back to Turin to fetch them it was as a guide already fully qualified. On the drive up from Ivrea, in a valley whence can be seen at the same moment Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, and the glacier of the Gran Paradiso, he could show them the fort of Bard, blocking the gorge just as in the days when it checked Napoleon on his road to Marengo. But the memories awakened in him were not only of Napoleon; the valley of the Dora Baltea was a complete image of the Khyber Pass, and Bard the very counterpart of Ali Musjid.
As they came home through France, halt was made at Lyons, and, though he refused to see the gallery, he could describe almost every canvas and the place where it hung; but best of all he remembered Charlet's great picture of the retreat from Moscow and the army that "dragged itself along like a wounded snake." In Paris, too, on that homeward journey a stop was made, and since few of his friends were yet back from the country, there was more theatre-going than usual. Guitry, his favourite actor, was not playing, but Brasseur and Eve la Valliere amused him, and he found special delight in the Mariage de Mademoiselle Beulemans. Yet not even the acting of Jaques as the good-natured, choleric old Belgian brewer could induce him to depart from his practice of going away after the first act.
Three times in the last years of his life he went back to Provence. The first of these visits was in the January of 1909, and he with his companions set out from Paris on the last day of the old year, travelling by motor-car in defiance of heavy snow and frost. These made obstacles which only gave piquancy to his journey through scenes where stories of the Franco-German War crowded to his tongue, and when difficulties delayed the car he struck up wayside intimacies—once with an old non-commissioned officer now transformed into a Garde Champetre, anon with a peasant couple from whose cottage he begged hot water to make tea. In one such household, arriving with beard and moustache frozen white, he announced himself to the children of the family group as Father Christmas, and made good his claim with distribution of little gifts.
At Hyeres he was rejoined by the old servant, once his gardener and vine-dresser, who had marketed the produce of La Sainte Campagne in the days when Sir Charles was trading, like any other petty Provencal landowner, in grapes and artichokes, mimosa and roses and violets, for the Toulon market. That former life lived again in his talk as he recalled those whom he had known in his Provencal home: neighbours, servants, local politicians; and from his hotel at Hyeres he never failed to make excursions to Toulon, and to visit his old friend and sometime man of business, M. Bertrand, who would carry him to the cafe frequented by the leading citizens, to feast on a Provencal dejeuner with red mullet and bouillabaisse. Another recurring visit was to Emile Ollivier at La Moutte, his beautiful seaward-facing house on the promontory beyond Saint Tropez.
"Sir Dilke" had friends everywhere in that corner of the world. His near neighbour at Cap Brun, M. Noel Blache, leader of the local bar, a famous teller of Provencal stories and declaimer of Provencal verse, said of him: "He knows our country and our legends better than we know them ourselves." In the years during which he lived for part of the twelvemonth at Toulon he had followed every winding of the coast, had explored all the recesses of the hills.
"It is my boast, probably vain," he wrote to M. Andre Chevrillon in 1909, "to have invented the Mountains of the Moors. Sizeranne had been staying there for six weeks before he came into the British Hyeres, but, he, only on the coast. When I first showed that coast to Emile Ollivier, Noel Blache, then President of the Conseil-General of the Var, and Felix Martin, the latter advised the narrow-gauge railway which ruined the politicians of the Var, and became 'le Panama du Midi.' My journey this time was to assure myself that the road and railway along the coast had not spoilt the interior. They have improved indeed, and I was glad, a road from the entrance to the forest on the main road from Hyeres to Cogolin, turning to the north over two cols to Collobrieres. The T.C.F. has made a road from Collobrieres up the hill to the south-east, whence the walk to La Chartreuse de la Verne is easy. I used to have to reach that spot from Campo, the police post on the stream, called Campeaux upon the maps. The whole forest is unharmed. It is unknown to the British inhabitants of Hyeres. Not one had been there, or, I think, heard of it; and I met no human creature upon some twelve miles of the finest parts of the improved road. Grimaud, at the other end, I have no doubt you know. It was the Moorish capital. I went there the day that I lunched with Emile Ollivier this time. There was a foot of ice on the top, at La Garde-Freinet, and one looked back, down on to Grimaud, standing baked by an African sun, and could make out the ripe oranges and the heads of the great cactus."
"Why does not someone 'discover' France?" he writes to M. Joseph Reinach. "How few Frenchmen know the sunset view north from St. Tropez in January!" And again to M. Chevrillon in 1909: "I adore the solitude of Sainte Baume, and believe in Marie Madeleine—except her head and tomb at St. Maxime, where Brutus Bonaparte helped keep the inn. [Footnote: The eldest of the Bonapartes was not the only person of the Napoleonic days as to whom stories were told in the neighbourhood. Desiree Clary was said to have lived at the inn of St. Maxime, and Sir Charles wrote to Mr. Morley concerning La Sainte Campagne: "My old cottage is supposed to be that where Murat was concealed after the 100 days."] Intellect is represented here by Robert de la Sizeranne, but it is only two and a half hours in motor or two and a half by rail to La Moutte, where I make E. Ollivier read his fourteenth volume!"
All the little hill towns were known to him, and their history; he could show the spot at Cavalaire where the Moorish lords of Provence trained their famous horses; he knew the path at Le Lavandou, worn into the solid rock by the bare feet of countless generations. It irked him that the plain of Frejus was spoilt by the intrusion of white villas on what had once been called "a better Campagna." But these changes were of the surface only. Provence was still Provence, its people still unchanged from the days when Gambetta said to Sir Charles of one who projected a watercourse at Nice: "Jamais il ne coulera par cette riviere au tant d'eau qu'il n'en depensera de salive a en parler." There was still the local vintage in every inn, still the beurre du berger, the cheese and the conserves of fruit which every housewife in Provence sets out with pride in her own making; still the thin breeze of the mistral through the tree-tops, still the long white roads running between fields of violets and narcissi, and still white farmhouses among the terraced oliveyards and vines. All these things were an abiding joy, but a greater joy than all, and still more unchangeable, was the daily oncoming of light, the subtle flush and gradations of colour before the sun rose from that beloved sea.
In the year 1908 Sir Charles's health had been very bad, and he risked his life in attending the annual miners' meeting at the Speech House, leaving Dockett Eddy, as his custom was, at six in the morning, and returning home the same night. But by the following year he had regained his physical condition and his cheerfulness. The aspect of politics, too, had been transfigured. Speaking to his constituents in September, 1909, he reminded them how a year earlier the Liberal party had been despondent.
'This year all of them felt that the Government, with the country behind it—for the country was thoroughly behind the Government in the matter of the Budget—had taken, not only a new lease of life, but had adopted an attitude which on the whole, apart from any little doubts in reference to particular details, commanded a confident and an enthusiastic support on the part of a wider majority of people than any other movement of modern times.'
He told them of his own objections to the famous Budget—one in regard to the cider duty, upon which he had carried his point, the other to the increased tax on tobacco, which he had unsuccessfully resisted. So long as tea and tobacco were taxed as they were, the working classes, in his judgment, paid more than their just proportion. Still, a great stride forward had been taken. As for the House of Lords throwing out the Budget, "those who did not like that Chamber wanted that fight, but it did not seem to him natural that the House of Lords would desire it, because it appeared to him to be a fight in which the Peers were perfectly certain to be beaten." Nevertheless it came to pass, a General Election followed, and the huge independent Liberal majority disappeared. Sir Charles was active to keep together the various sections which most desired to limit the power of the House of Lords, and on February 22nd, 1910, he, on behalf of the Radicals, held an interview with the Labour and Irish leaders together, to ascertain and discuss the line of action contemplated. Also, since there was a proposal that Government should, as a matter of urgency, oust private members and take all the time of the House, he saw Mr. J. S. Sandars, Mr. Balfour's chief private secretary, and in Sir Charles's phrase "factotum," to find out what the Opposition was going to do.
In the debates upon the Government's Resolutions which laid the foundation for the Parliament Act, Sir Charles took no part. The matter had gone as he desired.
By April the Resolutions were adopted; but before action by Bill could be begun, the Parliamentary struggle was suspended by the death of King Edward. In that national loss Sir Charles Dilke felt special sorrow. Whether as Prince of Wales or as King, the dead Sovereign had consistently shown him, not merely consideration, but friendship. It was among the satisfactions of Sir Charles's last years of life that the principle, for which he had incurred odium by contending forty years earlier, now came to be fully recognized as that most respectful to the Crown. Lord Knollys writes that on the accession of King Edward VII., Sir Charles had called and "offered to support any reasonable Civil List which might be proposed." A Civil List Committee was appointed, on which Sir Charles served, and the result of its deliberations was to recommend a discontinuance of occasional grants from Parliament to members of the Royal Family. It did not, indeed, go to the length of making adequate provision for the family and leaving its distribution to the King, which was what Sir Charles always recommended; but it moved far in that direction, and to that extent carried out his views.
The royal funeral brought to London another Sovereign with whom Sir Charles had friendly personal relations, and the last page in his Memoir tells of a 'long talk with King George of Greece at Buckingham Palace.' The King was inclined to deprecate the summoning of a National Assembly for that autumn. He called it "stupid," whereat, says Sir Charles, 'blank look on my part.' Then, after a pause ('whereas till then we had talked in a perpetual duet'), the King went on to admit that the National Assembly was his own creation.
"Well, I was against it at first because we can do by law already everything that is to be done by the National Assembly. But I saw that it was the only way out."
"I am glad, Sir," Sir Charles quickly rejoined, "that I was not 'stupid,' for I attributed the invention to" (and he pointed) "its author."
The King, however, was afraid that some might "blame him," and when Sir Charles answered, "No one," he quoted the phrase once applied to him: "Bon petit roi, manque d'energie." The reply was: "I don't know who said that, Sir! Your prestige is exactly opposite to the German Emperor's prestige, but equally important to your country and to peace. It may have been a fool who said it, but it was probably chaff."
"... My family?"
"Oh, well, that is chaff—that is what I meant by chaff."
But Sir Charles took occasion to tell a very important member of the "family" that "Berlin and Athens were different."
When autumn came, the sitting of the Constitutional Conference silenced Sir Charles and all men who desired a fair field for that great experiment. Its failure precipitated a new General Election.
By this time there was no doubt in Sir Charles's mind as to the gravity of his physical condition. To a friend, who in October was setting out for extended travel in West Africa, he wrote these words in a letter wishing him God-speed:
"You are much more likely to come back alive than I am to be alive to welcome you. Yet I hope that the less likely survival may be, and of the other I feel pretty sure."
Knowing what he did of his own health, knowing the loyalty of his constituents, who had within a few months returned him by a majority of over two thousand, he might well have consented, as his friends wished, to fight the new election by deputy. It was not his way. Haggard and physically oppressed, he spent a fortnight in that bitter December going the round of meetings, addressing his supporters as best his bodily weakness allowed that strong will and fine courage to have their way. The result was foregone: his majority was triumphant; but the exertion killed him. None the less, he came out of the fray jubilant; his side had won, the victory had been decisive. In Paris, where he went with Mr. Hudson, the journalists came to him for his accustomed review of the total situation. "Depuis que je suis au Parlement, je n'ai pas connu un Ministere aussi solide que le Ministere preside par M. Asquith," was his emphatic word to M. Leudet in the Figaro.
The strain had in no way impaired his intellectual vitality. Those of his old friends who saw him, such as M. Reinach, had never known him more animated. To M. Andre Chevrillon, a newer friend by whom he had been greatly attracted, he wrote:
"I see in the Times that you are writing on Russian literature and music. Please, then, include Bell music: a saint's eve at Troitsa Sergeifski! The silver notes floating in the dusty—or the frozen—air. I've been there in September, and I've been there in December.
"Any chance of seeing you—without moving, for I'm suffering from weak heart, after two winter-contested elections in one year? I'm extraordinarily better to-day, but am apt to 'blow' in other than the Australian sense."
M. Chevrillon has written his impression of the gravity which lay behind that cheery tone.
"J'allai le voir a l'Hotel St. James. Je n'oublierai jamais l'impression que m'a laissee cette visite. II etait d'une paleur de marbre; il m'a dit brievement qu'il se savait en danger immediat, que le medecin l'avait averti; et tout de suite, quittant ce sujet, il m'a parle avec son animation, sa verve et sa precision habituelle de la situation politique en Angleterre. II y avait ce jour—la sur cette noble figure toute bleme, une dignite, j'ose dire une majeste, extraordinaire; il etait deja marque par la mort; il la regardait venir avec une tranquillite et un courage absolu; j'emportai de cette visite le douloureux sentiment que je ne le reverrais pas, et une admiration qui me restera toujours pour ce que je venais d'entrevoir de son caractere."
From Paris he insisted on moving South once more. He travelled now as an invalid; but when morning light came into the compartment where he lay, he made his way to the window and beheld again cypress and olive, sun-baked swarthy soil, little hills with rocky crests fantastically chiselled, all bathed in the dazzling sunshine of the South. Leaning his face against the window, he said: "Provence always plays up."
At Hyeres he was kept in bed. But he still read the books that came to him by post, still dictated his reviews for the Athenaeum, and still enjoyed the reading aloud of French plays, which had become a habit of holiday time. And, above all, from his window as he lay he watched with delight unjaded the spectacle of sea and sky. "Am I not a fortunate invalid," he said, "to have the most beautiful view in the world to look at?"
Now and then his shout of laughter would be heard and the old spirit of fun would assert itself. When the journey home in January, 1911, had to be faced, he rallied for it, came to the restaurant on the train, and during the crossing sat on deck with Miss Constance Smith, who writes:
"At that time his thoughts seemed to stray from this last journey back to that which we had taken in the autumn. 'It is worth while,' he said, 'to have seen Aosta. I am glad to have done it. It is not often at my age that one can get so much pleasure out of a new thing.' I think he had a double motive in mentioning Aosta. He put it forward partly to obliterate for me the sadness of the past three weeks by raising the memory of the pleasant times that lay behind."
When he reached London he was happy to be again at home and he felt better. Those with him had no fear for the immediate future, and he himself fully expected to take his place in Parliament when it met. Friends would have induced him to consider what part of his work could be abandoned, but his answer was peremptory: "I won't be kept alive to do nothing." Confined to bed as he was, work still went on; he received and answered letters, read and annotated Blue-books. Curiously and almost dramatically, the occupations of these last days sifted themselves out in such fashion that the very latest things he handled became, in some sort, an epitome of his life's work. M. Michelidakis, President of the Cretan Executive Committee, had written to complain, on behalf of the Cretan people, that the last note of the Powers seemed to reverse their policy of slowly transferring Crete to a local government. On January 24th Sir Charles answered this appeal for his help. It was the last letter that he signed with his own hand—fit close to a lifelong championship.
Other clients were knocking at his door that same day, other voices from that strange retinue of petitioners who brought from all quarters of the world to this one man their cry for protection and redress. What they asked was no romantic action, nothing stirring or picturesque, but simply the weight of his authority exhibited on their side, and the wisdom of his long practice in public life for their guidance. He was to fix a date for introducing a deputation concerning certain grievances of the coloured people in Jamaica, and was to advise upon the best way to raise a number of minor West African questions in the new Parliament. His answer was sent from 76, Sloane Street:
January 24th, 1911.
"I am still lying up, but I think that I could answer any ordinary call to duty, and I am trying a small private meeting to-morrow afternoon, though I shall return to bed here.
"I will note Thursday, 2nd, at noon, on the chance of being well enough.
"The questions which personally interest me the most are those affecting the concessionary companies, and I should be glad if you would ask Wedgwood to keep very close touch with me on these. He likes me, and is quite willing to show me things; but he does too much and, like myself, is always tired, and the result is that he has to be reminded as to consultation in advance, though he does not mind this being done.
"I doubt there being much danger about the Gambia. As for the Southern Nigerian ordinances, I am not competent, and have a general impression that as a rule we do best on more general lines, though some of the concessionary companies make such 'cases' as to form exceptions."
His strength was far spent. This letter, says Mr. Hudson, writing two days later to the President of the Aborigines' Protection Society, "he asked me to sign, after wishing to sign himself."
Yet the brain was clear and the will unshaken. The "small private meeting" of which he wrote was a committee of directors of the Gardeners' Chronicle, and on the 25th he was preparing to rise and dress to attend this, but was persuaded to go back to bed. In bed, he was still busy reading and marking Blue-books which bore upon the case of the unorganized workers. The papers so prepared were, by his direction, set aside for the service of the Women's Trade-Union League. They were delivered next morning, but the messenger who took them carried with them the tidings of Sir Charles Dilke's death. He had slipped suddenly out of life, his heart failing, soon after four o'clock on the morning of Thursday, January 26th, 1911.
* * * * *
To the funeral service at Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, on January 30th, there came from the House of Commons members of the Cabinet and of the Ministry, representatives of Liberalism and Labour, the Irish leader with several of his colleagues, while from the Unionist benches also men paid this tribute to an honoured opponent. But the Parliamentary figure of most interest was Mr. Austen Chamberlain, who carried from a sick-room to the graveside the farewell of old comrade to old comrade.
Among the congregation were men who had been official representatives of great dominions of the Empire or of foreign Governments. These came in their private capacity, but one nation as a nation was represented there. The King of the Hellenes sent his Minister in London to be his deputy, and the Greek Government ordered a wreath, the token of their sorrow and gratitude, to be laid upon the bier.
Tributes poured in from the great mass of his fellow-countrymen; from philanthropic societies; from those who, in or out of Parliament, had worked with his help and guidance. But above all there were messages from every trade union and organization of wage-earners, letters from men and from women in every kind of employ, testifying of service done, of infinitely varied knowledge, of devotion that knew no limit, and that had not gone without the one reward acceptable to the man they honoured, their responsive love and gratitude.
So closed a life across which many commentators of the moment wrote, some lightly, some in sincere regret, the word Failure. It was ill-chosen. They should have written Loss. His career had not fulfilled the promise of its opening; his abilities had never found the full scope which once seemed assured to them; he had done for his country only what his country permitted him to do. Over this it was natural, it was reasonable, to speak words of sorrow. Those who said—and there were not a few who said it—that he had accomplished more out of office than he could ever have achieved in office, paid a tribute to the greatness of his work, but they did not understand the force which had been wasted. He combined two gifts rarely found in combination—the gift of Parliamentary leadership and a profound knowledge of foreign affairs. Amongst the men of his time he stood out as essentially a House of Commons man, but he was also a European personality. In these characteristics he recalls Lord Palmerston. Whether to foreign or to domestic affairs, he brought a knowledge, a judgment, and a mastery of detail, which none of his contemporaries surpassed and few equalled; and he added to these the priceless gift of tact in dealing with men and with bodies of men. In the only Parliament which knew him as an administrator his advance was rapid and decisive: five years placed him by universal admission in the front rank; and yet the general opinion was not less clear than that of the few great ones. Beaconsfield and Bismarck singled him out by their special interest; Gladstone looked to him as probably his own ultimate successor.
Then came the day when there was taken from him for ever the opportunity of directing great affairs, and Sir Charles Dilke's career must be numbered among things that might have been. Yet was his "the failure"? "It was England's misfortune, and perhaps her fault," wrote one [Footnote: Mr. Spenser Wilkinson.] who knew him intimately and shared but few of his political opinions, "that she could thus have been deprived of the services of one of her best statesmen."
All that he could do to repair the misfortune to his country was done without stint. Dismissed from his high command by a scandal, the truth of which he persistently denied, when a life of ease was open to him he chose, in spite of obloquy, to return to the ranks. Of what he accomplished in the ranks some outline has been given; its record stands as an answer to those who think, as many are tempted to think, that work in Parliament without office is, in these days, foredoomed to futility.
Yet not in the external results of his wisdom and his labour, but in another sphere, lies his supreme achievement. The same fate which obscured the statesman's greatness revealed, what prosperity must have hidden, the full measure of the man. To have requited public contumely with public service; in the midst of humiliation to have kept his nature unspoilt, unimbittered, every faculty bright and keen; to have abated no jot of his happiness; and at the last to have passed away in serene dignity, all the voices of reproach hushed and overawed—this was not defeat, but victory; this, complete in its fulfilment, was the triumph of Sir Charles Dilke's life.
LITERARY WORK AND INTERESTS
[Footnote: By Miss Constance Hinton Smith.]
No view of Sir Charles Dilke's life can be complete which fails to take account of his literary interests and activities. He disclaimed the title of man of letters. [Footnote: 'Except in editing some of my grandfather's papers, I never myself at all ventured into the paths of pure literature; but I have lived near enough to it and them ... to be able to enjoy.'] Except for the little memoir of his second wife, all the books he gave to the world, as well as the larger part of his periodical writing, were inspired by political, though not by party, considerations. And throughout the years of his public career the pressure of daily work inside and outside Parliament left him small leisure for reading other than that through which he kept himself acquainted with every movement, and as far as was humanly possible with every fact, that seemed to bear upon the wide range of subjects handled by him. So prodigious was his industry, however—only Dominie Sampson's adjective will serve—and so quick his faculty for detecting at a glance the quality of a book and extracting from it the pith and marrow, that even in the busiest periods of his life he contrived to keep abreast of the things best worth knowing, not only in English, but also in French literature. From the time when, by his father's death, he inherited the proprietorship of the Athenaeum, he exercised, through that journal, a definite if indirect influence in the maintenance of the high standards of literary honesty, accuracy, and taste in which he had been brought up. This was done partly by means of his own contributions to the paper, which covered a field which included history, travel, art, poetry, and archaeology in two languages, and partly through "his comments and suggestions on the proofs," of which Mr. C. A. Cook, a former acting editor, writes with abiding gratitude. Other newspaper proprietors have doubtless done as much to preserve uniformity of tone and principle; few, if any, have probably brought such close and unwearied care to bear upon those details in which tone is audible and principle expresses itself.
Sir Charles Dilke's attitude towards literature, like his attitude to politics and art, was peculiar to himself. He judged books, as he judged men, not by the conventional verdict of the world—in this case the world of critics—but by the quality his own mind discerned in them. His judgments, therefore, were personal judgments, uncoloured, as far as human judgments can be, by traditional respect or prejudice. This does not mean that he had no literary canons: his grandfather's pupil could hardly have left old Mr. Dilke's hands so unfurnished; but he never became the slave of a rule or the docile worshipper of any reputation, however well established. This mental freedom was partly due to intellectual courage. The humour of Lamb, for example, delights the majority of educated Englishmen: it had no charm for Sir Charles, and he was not afraid to say so. But his liberty of appreciation owed something also to the circumstances of his education. The fact that he had never been at a public school—thus missing, in the plastic years of a sensitive boyhood, the influences which make most strongly for conventionality of outlook among men of a certain class—made it easier for him than it might otherwise have been to examine literary questions with his own eyes, and not through the medium of special glasses imposed by authority. By the time he went up to Cambridge this habit of judging for himself was already formed; and although Cambridge did much to mould, she did not remake him.
The catalogue of his published writings, apart from those contributed to magazines and newspapers, is brief. It consists practically of the early book that made him famous as a political thinker, Greater Britain; the brilliant satire, Prince Florestan, published anonymously in 1874, of which he subsequently acknowledged the authorship; and the few volumes written after the close of his official career, each of which deals with large questions of public and international interest. Problems of Greater Britain and Imperial Defence (the latter written in collaboration with Mr. Spenser Wilkinson) were the most important of these works, which do not represent fully the literary ambition of his earlier years. There is plenty of evidence in the Memoir to show that, at the time of that journey round the world of which Greater Britain was the result, he had not only formed, but had begun to carry out, several literary projects. Some of these, essays in verse, story- writing, and metaphysical speculation, belong to the category of experiment or amusement, and represent nothing more than the natural activity of a fertile mind trying its powers now in this direction, now in that. Others are more characteristic: a History of Radicalism, a Political Geography, a book to be called The Anglo-Saxon Race or The English World, and a work on International Law. [Footnote: See Chapter VI. (Vol. I.)]
As late as 1878 he was 'working hard at' a History of the Nineteenth Century 'for three or four months' in Provence, 'besides managing to do some little work towards it when I was in London.' At this time he was engaged upon the History of Germany in the early part of his chosen period, and was corresponding with Professor Seeley as the highest authority on that subject.
'My history of events began with 1814. I showed that the doctrine of nationality had been made use of for their own purposes by the Kings in 1812-13, and crushed by them at congresses between 1814 and 1822, and then appealed to by the revolutionary party in 1823, and in a less degree in 1848. That doctrine of nationality was described even in our own times by Heine as a dead thing, when it was yet destined to prove, in 1859 and 1866 and 1870 and 1878, the phenomenon of the century, and nowhere to work such change as in Heine's own Germany. Heine thought that the idea of the emancipation of nationality had already in his day been replaced by the emancipation of humanity; but, whatever may be the case in the long-run, the emancipation of nationalities was destined to prove the more lasting side of the movement of 1848.'
After stating that the nineteenth century must be held to have begun in 1814, he writes:
'History to me was one and could know no commencements, yet in the development of a concerted action of the Powers I found 1814 so convenient a starting-point as to be as good as a real beginning. In the rise of the new society, the social revolution,'
he found himself less fortunate. There was no clear starting-point, and when he selected August 4th, 1789, as his,
'I felt that I chose only the moment of the springing of the plant from the soil ... and stood in some danger of neglecting the previous germination of the seed beneath the soil.'
After delivering a lecture on "Old Chelsea," in which 'I made a considerable attempt to clear up some points in the life of Sir Thomas More, for whom I have a great admiration ... I conceived ... the idea of writing a Life of More, whose life has never been well told since it was written by his son-in-law at the time; but the immense difficulty of writing any Life which would stand a comparison with the son-in-law's notes ultimately deterred me.'