Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, this Bill, to which I have the honour to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading, is not, for the reasons which I explained the other day, a Bill ratifying the Treaty of Peace that has been concluded between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, but it is a Bill giving power for the execution of the Treaty in certain respects for which Parliamentary sanction is required. They are defined in the clauses of the Bill. There is practically only one substantial clause, with three subsections. The first of those subsections gives power to His Majesty to make appointments, to establish offices, and to issue Orders in Council for carrying out the provisions of the Treaty. The second subsection provides that the Orders in Council may impose penalties, and shall be laid, according to the ordinary practice, before Parliament. The third subsection provides that any expenses incurred in carrying out the Treaty shall be placed on the Parliamentary Votes in the usual manner. Any explanation that your Lordships may desire on any of these points I shall be willing to give. I do not think that it is any part of my province to-day to enlarge upon the Peace Treaty itself. I am afraid that I consumed a very great and perhaps almost unreasonable space of your Lordships' time ten days ago in attempting an analysis and a summary of the provisions of the Treaty. I certainly have no intention of repeating that this afternoon, but will hold myself ready to answer any questions that any noble Lord may think it desirable to put. With this brief explanation I now move the Second Reading of the Bill.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)
My Lords, the Motion made by the noble Earl for the consent of Parliament to action by the Crown in carrying into effect the provisions of the Treaty of Peace raises the whole question of the Treaty, and gives us an opportunity of entering into an enormous and boundless field of comment and discussion. Into that field I shall not enter. A famous line of poetry says—
Parliament cannot alter what is past. We are presented with a Treaty which has taken a long time to discuss and settle. It has been the result of immensely complicated negotiations, and I do not see how we can reopen it now. Had we known more of what was passing while those negotiations were going on, Parliament might perhaps have profitably, at some stages of the discussions, said something which would have been of value to the negotiators. Of course, I should be the last person to suggest that negotiations can be conducted in public. Those of us who have had any experience of diplomatic discussions know how impossible that is. But I may ask, I think with. propriety, what information is going to be given to us as to the means and methods which guided, and the considerations which influenced, the Powers in coming to the conclusions that are embodied in this Treaty. I have had on the Paper for some time, having postponed it from time to time at the request of His Majesty's Government, a Question which appears on the Paper to-day, which perhaps I may put to the noble Earl now as it is undoubtedly germane to the purpose of our discussion this afternoon. It is this— To ask His Majesty's Government in what form it is proposed to present to Parliament an account of the negotiations which have led to the settlement of the terms of peace proposed to Germany and Austria, and to the conclusion of whatever peace may be ultimately signed with the latter State? Your Lordships will remember what happened at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Berlin. There was presented to Parliament an immensely long Despatch enclosing a report of the discussions of the Congress of Berlin. It was, I think, a report of 180 folio pages. It gave us a very full account of what passed at the different sittings of the Conference presided over by Prince Bismarck. I do not, of course, know what the methods followed at the Berlin Congress were, but probably they were entirely different from those followed at the Paris Conference, and I do not suggest that an equally full narrative is possible now (if rumour be true as to the way the discussions were conducted). Still, in some form or other, I think we I may take it that His Majesty's Government will wish to present to us a report explaining the methods by which the conclusions embodied in the Treaty were reached. Therefore I ask the noble Earl, when he replies, if he will be good enough to answer the Question which is on the. Paper, and which it might be convenient to dispose of at once. I pass away free that and the contents of the Treaty altogether, except in so far as the Treaty embodies the League of Nations. I shall have a few observations to make presently upon the League of Nations, and they will, I take it, be in order, as the Covenant of the League of Nations is part of this Treaty. I will only say that while there are many things to rejoice us in the Treaty, there are also some things to regret. I am sorely tempted to comment upon one of those things—namely, the case of Shantung. But I suppose I had better refrain from raising that question at this moment. And I will not use more than a few sentences about a question which, though not of permanent and intrinsic importance, has provoked a. large amount of debate and discussion -the question of whether it is desirable to indict and try the German Emperor, and, if so where and how he shall be tried. Just one remark I will make upon that which seems to me to go to the kernel of the matter. There are two aspects of the proposal to have, such a trial. One relates to ourselves and the other Allies, and the other relates to the neutral countries and the countries recently at war with us. So far as the question relates to ourselves, we have already completely formed a judgment that nothing is likely to alter. A more grass violation of international morality as well as of treaties, and one which was fraught with more terrible consequences than the invasion of Belgium and the detestable treatment of non-combatants which followed upon that both in Belgium and Northern France, it is impossible to imagine. There has hardly been a greater crime recorded in history. We, therefore, are completely convinced of the greatness of the crime, and I think we are convinced of the responsibility not of one person alone—the nominal head of the State—but of all those who surrounded him and in whose hands he was. We have full evidence of their responsibility, and history has already ample materials for forming a judgment upon the matter. But if we turn to the effect to be produced upon neutral countries and upon the countries which have recently been at war with us, the matter assumes a somewhat different aspect. It may be asked, in the first place, what precedent there is for any such trial. What precedent is there for the trial of the head of a State? A good many instances have been cited, but curiously enough the only instance. I have been able to think of which is parallel to this is an instance very far back in history—the instance of the judicial murder of Conradin, King of Sicily, by Charles of Anjou in 1268; and that was considered at the time such an atrocious act that no one would think of citing it as a precedent. Further, what precedent is there for trying an offence committed in another country over which we and the Allies have no jurisdiction? What precedent is there for holding a trial of this kind in the country which has been at war with the country of the person who is to be tried, and what effect will be produced by the trial of an offender of this eminence by his enemies? All these are questions of some importance. What is said to be desired is that this trial shall be a vindication of international morality, standing as a monument for the future, and influencing the opinion of the world now. But so far as we are concerned, it does not seem to be needed; and so far as neutral countries and the enemy countries are concerned may it not rather tend to make the culprit who is arraigned an object of commiseration and sympathy, and in that way produce a different effect from that which its advocates desire? I pass away from that—I mentioned it merely in order that I may not appear to ignore a matter that has aroused so much public interest—and I turn to the future. There are, I think, very few people in England or in the countries associated with us who realise the vastness of the task to which the Conference had to address itself in Paris. If we go back to all the great European settlements of the last 300 years; if we compare the problems that lay before the Conference at Paris with those that occupied the people who negotiated the Peace of Westphalia in the middle of the seventeenth century or with those dealt with in the Peace of Utrecht, or with those of the European settlement made at the Congress of Vienna, or with those in our own memory which arose at the Congress of Berlin where a sort of settlement was made—then we feel that none of those are in any way comparable to the magnitude of the task which has been carried on and is being carried on in Paris. Neither is it yet generally understood how much remains to be done and how comparatively small a part of the re-settlement of the territories of the world has been completed by the Treaty which is now before your Lordships. There are three groups of countries remaining in which difficulties of the utmost intricacy and complication arise, which it will need all the energy and all the wisdom that the most skilled and best-informed men possess to solve. And the Treaty of Berlin in that respect is a warning to us. It left many injustices and many dangers existing, and they proved a constant danger to the peace of Europe. And its provisions were never fairly carried out. More than thirty years of unrest and suffering were caused to the. Balkan peninsula—and I might add in Western Asia also—be the settlement which was attempted to be made in the Treaty of Berlin. It is not too much to say that the Failure of the Treaty of Berlin to settle the question of time Balkans was one of the causes which brought about the present war. It is surely incumbent upon us to try to be warned by that disastrous precedent. Of course, I am not saving this by way of recrimination or condemnation of those who negotiated the Treaty of Berlin. They had great difficulties to face, and if there is any blame it is to be divided in many quarters. I am merely pointing out what was the result of leaving these questions ill adjusted. Let us try, therefore, to avoid leaving unsettled questions which give no peace to nations, both in the remaining treaties which have to be concluded—with Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria—and also in carrying out the provisions of this Treaty with Germany. I venture respectfully to suggest to your Lordships and to His Majesty's Government two methods in which these difficulties may be dealt with and the dangers incident to the conditions of the groups of countries still remaining to be handled may be avoided. One of them is to appoint, where there are grave difficulties and disputes regarding frontiers and regarding the rights of the nationalities which inhabit those countries, impartial Commissions to make an investigation upon the spot, where necessary, and to report to the Conference upon the facts which they have ascertained. Hasty and ill-informed decisions arrived at by the Conference may be fatal to future peace A Commission has already been sent out to Syria which, I believe, is engaged in making inquiries there, and I suggest the Balkan countries and the Baltic countries also require similar treatment. There are many controversies there of the greatest possible difficulty, and an impartial report made by competent men, who lay down the lines which ought to be followed, having respect to the principle of nationality, and to the Principle of self-determination, would be of the greatest possible value to the negotiators when they are completing their task. The other suggestion is that, wherever possible, there should be taken a popular vote, or what is called a plébiscite, of the population concerned in order to ascertain their wishes. That is already provided for by the Treaty before us as regards a certain part of East Prussia which is inhabited partly by a Polish (i.e. Slavonic) and partly by a Teutonic, population, and also as regards the part of Schleswig which is inhabited partly by Danes and partly by Germans; and these provisions seem to have been very carefully considered, and may, I think, be carried out with perfect fairness under the supervision of the League of Nations. It is true that there are many questions of this kind where it is impossible to arrive at a satisfactory solution, sometimes because the two races are inextricably intermingled and almost equal in number, and sometimes because there are considerations of commerce, or possibly even of strategy, which may affect the decision. All I would represent to your Lordships is that as far as possible we ought to follow the principle of nationality, because it is the principle which is likely to give the maximum of contentment and of ac-quiescence in the settlement arrived at. No such gross violation of the principle should be sanctioned as that which has been asked in respect of the German-speaking part of Tyrol. There you have more than 200,000 people who speak German, who have always spoken German, who have never been under the Government of any Italian Sovereign, who belong to the ancient County of Tyrol, which had nothing whatever to do with the Italian Bishopric of Trentino, and it is now proposed to hand over these people to an alien Government to which they are extremely unwilling to submit. And although I gather from the answer which was given to me the other day that some sort of acquiescence was given to this by His Majesty's Government five tears ago, it must be remembered that circumstances were then entirely different. Italy was then confronted by the great Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, one of the great military monarchies of the world. She will now be confronted to the North by a petty State with only about 7,000,000 people, perfectly unable to cope with a nation of 36,000,000. I believe it has been suggested, in answer to the demand for a plébiscite, that if yon took a plébiscite of the whole of the Tyrol south of the Brenner (and in that case why not take it for all Tyrol north as well as south of the Brenner?) but if you took a plébiscite for Tyrol south of the Brenner, you would probably have an Italian majority. That is true. The population of the Italian Bishopric of Trentino is much larger than the population of Central Tyrol, the district which is proposed to be annexed to Italy. You might as well suggest that, for determining the future of Lithuania, you should take a plébiscite of the whole of Russia, or to bring it a little nearer to our own experience—you might as well suggest that You should solve the question of Ulster, or of the four or six north-eastern counties of Ulster, by taking a plébiscite of the whole of Ira land. Clearly no one in Ulster will acquiesce in taking a plébiscite which covered, not only the people affected, but a very large population outside. And it would be just as absurd to settle the Irish question by taking a plébiscite of all Ireland and saying that that was giving effect to the wishes of the people of Ulster as it would be to take a plébiscite of all Tyrol south of the Brenner and to say that that represents the wishes of the population which is affected in this particular case. However, I pass by that, having merely mentioned it because it is an illustration of the principle that ought to be followed in taking plébiscites to ascertain the wishes of the population concerned. There are three cases in which very great difficulties arise with regard to the determination of boundaries, and where the principle of nationalities requires to be considered. One of those is the Baltic region Esthonia Lithuania, Lett-land, and the. Ukraine. Upon this I will say nothing, bacause it is very hard, even with the aid of a map, to remember where the nationalities are and what they are. But there are also the Balkans, with which, of course, your Lordships are much more familiar. There are two countries or rather two peoples—there which present particular difficulties. There is the, Albanian population and there is the Bulgarian population. The Albanian population is mixed on the North with the Slavonic population and on the South with the Greek population, and it would be a matter of very great, difficulty to settle where the lines ought to be drawn to give to the Albanians a certain part of what they claim which would recognise the claims of the Albanian people themselves to have their wishes respected. I believe there is some danger that the two neighbour States may get more of Albania than they ought to have. The only fair way to deal with this will be to have an impartial examination on the spot. The other question is that of the Bulgarian population in Southern Macedonia and South-Eastern Thrace. There, of course, we have a population which is different in race, speech and feeling from either the Serb population or the Greek population, and it would be a very great danger to future peace in the Balkans, indeed to the future peace of Europe, if a part of that population were assigned to the government of States between whom and that population there had already existed feelings of bitterness, which have become still more bitter owing to the strife that has unhappily prevailed in those countries during the last ten to fifteen years. To hand over populations to the rule of a Government to which they do not desire to be subjected would be only to create more unrest and more discontent and to sow the seeds of future wars. I do not know how these matters can be dealt with except by having a very careful public Inquiry- held, to be laid before the Conference when it comes to settle these questions. Similar questions arise in Western Asia. There is not only the question as to the Turks and how much the Turkish Government should retain. I do not think, if I may say so, that even those who are most anxious to champion the rights of the Christian nationalities would be justified in objecting to the constitution of a Turkish Sultanate which was ruling over a Mahomedan population; and if there is any uneasiness with regard to the feelings of Mahomedans elsewhere I take it that those feelings would be satisfied by having a Turkish Sultanate with its capital at Brusa or Konia, so that there would still be a. Sultan who might be a Caliph if the Mahomedan world pleased. Therefore we need not suppose there is any inconsistency in allowing a Turkish Sultanate of that kind to survive. There is also the question in which the noble Earl takes a particular interest—namely, the extremely difficult question of the peoples who inhabit Trans-Caucasia, where a problem exists as difficult as any of the others. May I add to what I have said by saying that it is not only important to avoid creating any fresh grievances but it is also imperative to give the world, and especially the populations concerned, the sense that justice has been done. It has been well said that Courts of Justice exist not only to do justice but to assure the world that justice has been done. That maxim applies here. We want not only to arrive at a just settlement but to let the nationalities concerned feel that their eases have been properly stated and heard, that each has had every opportunity of putting its ease, and that the settlement arrived at has been reached after an impartial consideration. I would like to add also that we ought not to start the League of Nations with a heavy load of evils and discontents already made for it. I hear it said in some quarters. "It does not much matter, the League of Nations will set it all right.'' I remember having heard it said in an inferior Court of Justice when a wrong decision was given that it mattered little what the Judge decided because the Court of Appeal would set him right. 'We do not want to hand these things over to the League of Nations as a Court of Appeal. We want to start the League of Nations with a clean slate and let it go upon its beneficent work without having difficulties ready made for it. This leads me to say a few words about the League of Nations itself. It is the one great achievement which can cheer the world after the sufferings of this war, and after the display of wickedness and brutality which this war has brought to our knowledge. It is the one great ray of hope for the future; and I think that our thanks are justly due not only to the President of the United States and his colleagues who brought forward and urged that proposition in Paris but also to His Majesty's Government and Lord Robert Cecil for the cordial and consistent support they have given to the idea, doing all they can to turn what was a distant aspiration into an accomplished fact. Therefore, if I may presume to do so on behalf of those who have been working for this idea ever since the beginning of the war. I would say that we appreciate, and I am sure that in the United States there will be warm appreciation for, the part that His Majesty's Government have played in bringing this result about. We have gone as far as it is possible safely new to go in the constitution of the Covenant of the League of Nations. There have been some sanguine spirits who have talked about creating a sort of super-State, or what used lo be called "a Parliament of the world." But the world is not ripe for anything of that kind. National feelings and jealousy are far too strong to allow any project of that kind to succeed; and it seems to most of us who have considered the matter that the Covenant embodied in this Treaty goes as far as would be useful in the direction of creating an authority charged with the preservation of peace. The nations, in fact, have to be educated up to this idea; it is still above them, and it has not been fully comprehended. I do not want for a moment and I do not think anybody who has studied the matter would wish—to underrate the difficulties which attend this matter. We feel them, perhaps, more strongly than the cynics who in clubs and newspapers deride the whole project. We know that the difficulties will require the utmost wisdom and care if the. League is to succeed. But after all, it is a great, departure towards good. It is a recognition of the unity of mankind; it is a recognition of the duty which peoples Owe to other peoples. It is the one attempt that has ever been made in the world, with any prospect of success, to make a permanent provision against the recurrence of calamities which would destroy civilisation itself. We feel that strongly with regard to the provision for the mandates in the case of backward races. If there were nothing but that in the Covenant of the League of Nations we might be glad to have it. The treatment of the backward races of mankind, ever since the Spanish Conquest of South America and the days of the slave trade, has been the greatest blot upon Christian nations, or shall I say upon so-called Christian nations who have never tried to apply Christian principles? But the work is by no means put through by the creation of this mandate. The greatest possible watchfulness will be required on the part of those who have to superintend the execution of the mandate by the Powers to whom the mandate has been committed. Things will be quite safe where this country has to carry out a mandate, as far as British administrators are concerned, because we all know that we have set an excellent example in doing the most that humane official administrators can do to protect native races. It is against exploiters and selfish adventurers that precautions have to be taken. There are now one or two suggestions would venture to make with regard to the League of Nations. In the first place, there is a matter which hits engaged great attention in the United States, amid which has been particularly dwelt upon by two statesmen there who have been doing their utmost to promote the acceptance of the League of Nations—namely, ex-President Taft and Mr. Elihu Root—I refer to the importance of using the League of Nations in order to create a better system of Inter-national Law. That is scarcely mentioned in the Covenant, and yet it is of the utmost importance. One of the first duties of the League will be to set a Commission to work to endeavour to codify and amend International Law—that is the medley of rules almost destroyed by the war, that used to be called International Law. In the second place, there is the immediate constitution of an International Court of Justice. That is only foreshadowed in the Covenant, but it is really one of the most important things to be dealt with. It is mach better, instead of trusting to parties to choose their Courts from time to time, to have a permanent Court constituted of the very, best men in the world who can be found to undertake the duties, and to give them time to create by their decisions a sort of international jurisprudence based upon the precedents set by their decisions. Further, it seems important that the proceedings of the League of Nations authorities, not only of the General Assembly but also of the Council, should as far as possible receive publicity. What we want to do is to form a public opinion in the world. It is very undesirable that the League of Nations should rely upon force, if force can be avoided. It is very undesirable that it should even have recourse to the weapon, powerful as that weapon is, of commercial boycot. It is very much better that the League of Nations should act by appealing to the conscience of the world, and it can only do so if it gives as much publicity as possible to its proceedings and to the information upon which its proceedings are grounded. When, for instance, it has to undertake tile work of reconciliation, the work of endeavouring to solve difficulties that are arising between two countries and to find a proper compromise between their respective claims, the public opinion of the world would be greatly helped if there were an Inquiry which ascertained all the facts, which summarised and stated all the arguments, and which also set out the conclusions to which those arguments led and in that way gave public opinion the opportunity of throwing its weight upon the side to which justice seemed to belong. Therefore although there must be parts of the business of the League of Nations which can only be done in private, the more its business can be done in such a way to carry the public opinion of the world with it, the stronger will the League be and the more rapid will be the education of public opinion itself. What is wanted, my Lords, is to give the League of Nations a moral authority which every one will recognise because it is based upon the opinion of many nations and not only of the two nations immediately concerned—a moral authority which will check attempts at rapacity or outbursts of race hatred. The world needs appeasement. We have in the League of Nations, if it succeeds the means of appeasing those hatreds that have hitherto created strife and the means of creating an atmosphere of good will and a sense of solidarity. We have made war during these five years on behalf of great ideals of ideals of right, of justice, and of compassion, and the victory that we have won has been above all things a victory for those ideals. We are bound to adhere to them and to pursue them in peace. We believe that the British people and the American people are united in their loyalty to these ideals, and that they will support their governments in carrying out the principles of the League of Nations if they are properly instructed and appealed to. The League of Nations rests upon the feeling that the world has now become one one in a new sense never dreamed of before; that the fortunes of each people affect those of all other peoples, and that the well-being of each makes for the well-being of all. The League of Nations if it has any truth, or reality, or force, rests on the belief that the community of the world requires that a new spirit should prevail in international relations—a spirit which seeks to substitute friendship for enmity. Each of the European countries, our own included, emerged from the sanguinary welter of the Middle Ages by realising in its own domestic affairs that order and peace and respect by each individual for the rights and feelings of every other individual were better for all than ferocious strife. All the nations now have to do the same thing; they have to try to apply, far as is possible, Christian principles to international relations—to work for reconciliation, and to make even the peoples that have been alienated feel that they are members of one great community in peace and good will. That will do more for the happiness of each and of all than strife has given or ever will give to even the strongest."Not Heaven itself upon the past has power."
My Lords, there are only a few words that I desire to say, but I should be glad of your permission to add those few. In the first place, I think that every one who is considering this Treaty ought to bear in mind what was placed before us by the noble Earl the Leader of the House when he first explained the terms of Peace to your Lordships. We ought to realise the difficulties that the representatives of this country had to face in securing those terms, not only the difficulties that are plain and easily seen by all of us, but the difficulties which are probably more grave—the hidden difficulties—about which we can only guess, and of which we have no real knowledge at all. I felt that, when the noble Earl asked us to express some measure of gratitude to those who have been engaged in completing this work on our behalf, that expression ought not to be mitigated or withheld by any one who was of opinion, as I am, that the Treaty falls far short of what they hoped it would provide. In one respect (to which the noble Viscount has referred) the Treaty, although it has not realised the hopes of all of us, has at least achieved a very notable success; and when speaking, as I know I do, not only for myself but for many who were during the last three Years associated with me in an effort to make popular the idea of the League of Nations, I should like, on their behalf, to express our sense of obligation and gratitude to Lord Robert Cecil for the work he did in Paris.
; Hear, hear.
We feel that we owe much to his courage, and that we owe still more to the high principle with which he has attempted to inspire his public utterances and our public life upon this question. I feel, with the noble Viscount who has just sat down, that, though the League of Nations is newly born and though it is in many respects imperfect, Yet in its development and in its future work lies the only hope of rest and repose for this troubled and tormented world.The only other matter upon which I wish to speak is that connected with the part of the Treaty that deals with the trial of the late Emperor of Germany. I desire to ask your patience while I lay before you reasons which are, to my mind, convincing why the Government ought not to pursue that project any further. I think it is important to consider how it was that this demand for trial arose in the first place. It suddenly came to life at the time of the Election and the demand then was not for the trial of the Kaiser; the demand was for the punishment of the Kaiser, and the trial was a mere needless and tiresome preliminary to what they hoped to secure. The gusts of passion that were fierce at that time are, I believe, beginning to die down upon these great events. We are, at any rate, now face to face with the question as to whether it is in the best interests, not only of this country but of justice and of the future security of nations, that this project should be further pursued. I believe it is not. It is important, I think, in considering that question to divest it from the other question with which it is too often associated, and that is the idea that people who, like myself, deprecate this proceeding are seeking to shelter a criminal because of his rank. That certainly has no part whatever in fashioning the views I hold. There have been grave, indisputable crimes committed in this war—crimes which it is impossible either to expiate or to redeem; crimes such as those associated with the sinking of vessels in open sea without giving the men upon them the barest chance of escape; crimes like the murder of unoffending civilian people; crimes like cruelty to captive prisoners; crimes which one could multiply in catalogues like that indefinitely. They are grave, indisputable crimes against well-known and well-established law, and, if you can find that any man is guilty of any of these crimes, I would say let the law take its course and let hint be punished, whoever he may be. But it is not for those crimes that this trial is to take place. The ex-Kaiser is to be tried for crimes against international morality and breach of Treaty. But, as the noble Viscount said, has any one lit history ever heard of such a charge? It may be said that now is the time when you should create your new rules. Well and good. What is the international morality which it is said has been broken? If it be a breach of Treaty it is perfectly plain that there is no need to try any one about that, because the Treaty is broken and nobody doubts it. There is nothing to try. There is no issue. If you are going to try whether, according to the Constitution of Germany, the Kaiser was responsible for the breach, you are going to embark on an elaborate inquiry which it may take months and months to settle. And how are you going to settle it? You will be entitled—in fact, you will be bound—to summon all the witnesses, not merely from Germany but from any other of the Chancelleries of Europe, that the Kaiser desires to call in order to prove that, in fact, according to the Constitution of Germany he wins not responsible at all. It is quite plain that, according to laws which we well know, it is not enough to show that a man speaks in the name of a nation. You must how that the act is his and not the act of the people behind him. I should be glad to know what evidence there is before the Government at the moment to lead them to believe that such all inquiry would come to the only. conclusion which could be regarded as successful—a conclusion which will condemn the man who is tried. For let there be no mistake—if this trial is to end in acquittal, though justice may be satisfied, the offence that will be caused to the people of this country will be something beyond belief.
Several NOBLE LORDS
And now, if this trial is to take place, how is it to be conducted and who are to constitute the Tribunal? It seems to be assumed in the newspapers that it will be the easiest thing in the world to appoint an English Judge to take part in this trial. I have already said in public, and I repeat, that this is no part of the duty of an English Judge. The names of two most eminent Judges have been mentioned in connection with the matter. People who have mentioned them do not seem to consider that both these eminent men have been associated, in one way or the other, with the Government during the prosecution of the war. You do not think you can get what will be regarded by neutral nations as an independent trial if you put one of the people who have been associated with the Government itself as one of the Judges; nor can you expect that other Judges will undertake this business gladly.They may undertake it as they have, during the last few years, undertaken many distasteful and alien tasks, because they regard it as part of their duty to do what they can to help the Government of this country in a difficulty, but this work is not part of the work of an English Judge. The more the work of the English Bench is dissociated from active executive government the better. It is a great danger when you have Judges performing the work of the Government in any capacity except that in which they sit upon the Bench. It was a great Judge who said that an English Judge upon the Bench should neither court the smiles nor fear the frowns of any Government, and directly you associate them with the work of a Government and enable them to be thanked by a Government for what they have done, or to fear the Government's displeasure if they had not properly discharged the duty, you weaken the administration of justice in this country. This is a moment above all others when it is of the utmost importance that the English Bench should stand perfectly free from the Government of the country. We are, as we all know, nearing a moment which may be very critical in the history of this country. There are great storms sweeping over Europe, and under the flood we may be submerged, but if you will leave the English Bench alone there is one thing which will remain steady and clear to time last—the light of English justice. I am anxious beyond all things that nothing should be done now by which that light may be dimmed; and to ask an English Judge to sit and administer a law he does not know, by a procedure which is not defined, in a Court where he has no control, and to inflict a punishment which is anticipated by everybody as the result of his labours, is to ask him to do a work which in my humble judgment he is unfitted to discharge. If this trial is to be a reality, acquittal ought to be regarded just as possible as conviction. You cannot make the Court into an ante-chamber, a waiting room, for the prison or the scaffold. It must be a place which one may have the prospect of leaving a, free man. I ask the Government, Is that what they contemplate as the result of this trial? Finally, I wonder if the Government have considered what the effect of this is going to be on neutral nations and on our history. What is the position of this man at, the present moment? From the height of his, painted glory he has fallen to the lowest estate man ever occupied; and there in exile and loneliness, in dishonour, he can watch the ruin and the overthrow of the nation whose aggrandisement was the first care of iris life. It is not surprising that many people think that in the judgment which he is now working out they can trace the handiwork of something greater than man, and that they should fear lest man's interference should mar the august sublimity of that divine decree.
EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I suppose that I should be lacking in respect both to your Lordships' House and to those noble Lords who have addressed you if I did not attempt something in the nature of a reply to the observations to which we have just listened. Tire discussion was opened by the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce. The House listened to him, not merely with attention, but with that respect which his great authority demands. He is, if I may say so, almost if not actually the doyen of our Elder Statesmen, and from him on occasions of this sort we expect, and undoubtedly receive, words of moderation, of wisdom, and of prudent advice. There was, I think, hardly a word in his remarks with which I personally did not find myself in agreement.I will, it I may, follow him in tile observations which he addressed to your Lordships and in the questions which he put. The first question was one which appears in a separate form upon the Paper, in which he asks in what form it is proposed to present to Parliament an account of the negotiations which have led to the settlement of the terms of peace proposed to Germany and Austria, and to the conclusion of whatever peace may be ultimately signed with the latter State. With the negotiations leading up to the peace with Austria, which is not yet concluded, I am, of course, unable to deal at the present moment; but the two cases are on the same footing, and what I say with regard to one no doubt will apply to the other. In the speech that I made the other day I did give an indication to your Lordships of the Papers which we propose to lay. A good many of those have already been placed on the Table and circulated. As regards the remainder, it is a little difficult at this stage to pick out, in the enormous mass of type-written material (a great deal had not yet been printed)—involving discussions, reports of Commissions, and so on—the particular papers which it will be desirable to lay. A good many of them have not yet been translated. Some of them are necessarily of the most private and confidential character. The Government hope at no distant date to present to Parliament a compendium of such literature on the subject as it is possible to lay, and, agreeing as I do with the noble Viscount's general advocacy of publicity where it can reasonably be done, he can rely upon my seeing that it is made as comprehensive as possible. The noble Viscount will realise that it is not a matter which lies within the competence of the Foreign Office in Downing-street; it concerns statesmen in Paris, and publication can only take place by common agreement there. The noble Viscount went on to make certain suggestions as regards methods for securing, as far as may be, in the future the success of the contemplated arrangements with regard to the League of Nations, and in the two concrete suggestions that he submitted I, for one, heartily concur. Be laid great stress—and here he was speaking not only from political but from great geographical experience—on the importance of Commissions for determining disputed frontiers in many parts of the world. It is quite clear not only that decisions arrived at in Paris will in many cases be hasty and provisional, but must in some cases be wrong, and will require not only revision but very likely drastic alteration. Circumstances connected with nationality, with local interests, with passing political views, will arise which may entirely transform the considerations that led to a particular issue this year before than decision has been effectively carried out, and I think he was quite right in saying that one of the sequels to the proceedings at Paris will have to be the institution of Boundary Commissions on rather a large scale to go to the disputed areas, and, by means of expert examination, to advise as to the proper solution. The noble Viscount did, indeed, instance one case in which that is already being done—namely, the dispatch of a Commission to Syria. I am sorry, for my part., that once the policy of a Commission was decided upon, its tripartite character—French, British, and American—was not, for reasons with which the noble Viscount; is perfectly familiar, persisted in, and that the only Commission which has gone out to this country is the American Commission. There is another case in which, perhaps unknown to him, we are already utilising that method of investigation and determination, and that is the case of Smyrna. An acute situation has arisen there owing to the landing of Greek troops in that part of Asia Minor—a situation which is acute not merely because a great contest has already been provoked between Greeks and Turks, but because of similar competition, and in some cases collision, between the Greeks and the Italians. The only way to compose a matter of that sort is obviously by sending a Commission to inquire on the spot, and the Great Powers at Paris are at the moment deputing representatives to go out to that country with that object. The second suggestion of the noble Viscount in this context; was a strong recommendation of the plan of a popular vote, or plébiscite, in order to determine the views of the inhabitants of an area affected. He named two cases in which that principle is being applied—namely, Schleswig and Eastern Prussia. There are two smaller cases that he will find in the Peace Treaty which he did not happen to mention. One is the future destination of the little district of Malmédy, on the frontiers of Belgium and Germany, the inhabitants of which will be given after the lapse of a certain time an opportunity of determining by vote their own future. The other is the case, also known to him, of the future of the Saar Valley, at the end of the fifteen years postulated in the Treaty. In none of these matters can one really lay down hard and fast principles. We, in the West, are so familiar with the custom of going into the polling booth and deciding every doubt by the narrowest majority of votes, that we are apt to think that the same principle is not only intelligible, but acceptable, to all the peoples of the world. Of course, that is not the case. Nobody knows better than the noble Viscount that a plébiscite in Eastern countries, more especially backward Eastern countries, so far from being a suitable means of deciding popular opinion, would in all probability be an opportunity for a row. Therefore there are many cases in which a plébiscite would be the very last solution we would attempt to apply. The noble Viscount argues, I think fairly, that the right basis upon which so far as possible we should proceed in all these new arrangements is that of nationality, and it is in pursuance of that principle that the particular arrangements, complicated and open to criticism as in some respects they are, with regard to Danzig and the Polish Corridor, have been decided or attempted to be decided. Here, again, you cannot always lay down a principle. You find cross-currents—one principle being cut into by another principle. You find cases in which what principle suggests expediency condemns, and therefore you have every moment to adjust your principle, in no time-serving spirit but in the light of expediency, to the circumstances with which you have to deal. Take Armenia, as affected by the two principles which the noble Viscount has discussed. If you decide the Armenian problem on the principle of nationality, you do your best to constitute or reconstitute an Armenian State. On the other band, if you decide upon the principle of population, those wretched people have been so oppressed, so dissipated and massacred, that if you go to the areas in which you want to set up a State and have a plébiscite, the last thing you would find, in all probability, would be an Armenian majority. I only quote this as a case in which we hare to be, careful that a rigid application of principle does not lead us wrong. The noble Viscount went on to say, and here he was concurred in by Lord Buckmaster, who followed him—that he looked upon the one great achievement of the Paris proceedings as the constitution of the League of Nations. I was very glad to hear both these noble Lords once more pay a tribute of what I doubt not was absolutely sincere congratulation to my noble friend Lord Robert Cecil for the part he played in negotiating that instrument. Not only by common consent are the services he rendered in this respect at Paris conspicuous, but anybody who has read his speeches since he returned to this country, notably the speech he delivered across the way two nights ago, will find in them a combination of high idealism on the one hand and of practical common sense on the other, which is rare even in our foremost statesmen, and affords the best guarantee we can have of the success of the experiment with which he is so closely associated. I do not know, when these two noble Lords thank His Majesty's Government, that we deserve as much credit as our spokesman on that occasion did. But both of them are right in saying that His Majesty's Government entered into this matter with the firm intention of making that part of the programme a reality, and when I look back on the debate we had last year, in which I think I was on the part of the Government the first to express general sympathy with the scheme and theory of the League of Nations, and when I remember that I was chided by an eminent member of the Episcopal Bench who is not now present, for not being sufficiently fervid on that occasion, I am glad to think that the lines on which the settlement has so far proceeded—which the noble Viscount has told us has gone as far as he thinks in the circumstances is possible or desirable—were almost identical with those which I ventured to sketch on that occasion. I was rather glad to hear my noble friend Lord Bryce say a word about the new principle of Mandates, because that really, although it may be said to be involved in the larger issue of the League of Nations, is one of the great concrete constructive creations of the Paris Conference. The idea is not wholly new. It is true, as the noble Viscount said, that this is really a translation into international practice of a principle which we for very many years past have done our best to realise; but here for the first time you take the practice of one nation and find it invested with international sanction as the duty of all. I truly believe that when the history of this time is written, and whether the League of Nations does or does not fulfil all our expectations, the new system thus created for the government of backward countries and peoples hitherto too much neglected and oppressed will be regarded as one of the great triumphs of the twentieth century. My Lords, the noble Viscount also alluded, and with satisfaction to the creation by this instrument of a Permanent International Court of Justice, and I think he was right in saying that the main sanction of such a body will not be force—for many years it. will be difficult to exercise force—and that it need not even be commercial boycott, but may be public opinion; and that the way to consolidate public opinion on your side is to give as much publicity as possible to the proceedings of the League of Nations. That consideration is in the minds of those responsible for it, and I am sure that every attempt will be made to follow that general suggestion. Of course, the real tiling is, as the noble Viscount said, that the League of Nations is a recognition of a new spirit in the conduct of affairs in the world. It is the recognition of what we sometimes call the international spirit, the kind of idea that the future unit is not to be the race, the community, the small group, but is to be the great world of mankind, and that in that area you try and induce a common feeling, you try and produce co-operation which will be a better solvent of international difficulties than all the old and discredited methods of the past. I have dealt with most of the subjects to which the noble Viscount alluded, with one exception—the topic upon which much grater and more solemn stress was laid by the noble and learned Lord who has just resumed his seat. I respect the reasoning, although I dissent from the results of the reasoning, which he placed before your Lordships. I am alluding, of course, to the observations that he made about the trial of the Kaiser. Both noble Lords commenced their remarks in this context by saying that, they condemned the heinous and abominable nature of the crimes of which the German nation and their Sovereign, as their representative, have been guilty, but both of them went on to impugn, as I understood, the policy of the trial. They drew a picture—the noble and learned Lord in particular drew a picture—of the German Emperor living in exile out of his country in loneliness and dishonour, an outcast not only from his own people but from the respect of mankind. And their argument was that you might just as well leave this man in the inglorious obscurity to which he had retreated, and that to take him out of it by any great public act of trial and of condemnation might be, as the noble Viscount said, to make him an object of commiseration and sympathy rather than of contempt in the world. I have seen it also argued that you might, by trying the Emperor, make him again a conspicuous figure and increase his chances of restoration to some active part in the government of his own country. I do not think that I agree with either of those criticisms. I confess that the German Emperor does not appear to me to be in exile a figure at all comparable with those of the famous condemned Sovereigns or exiles of the past. After all, there was something picturesque and graceful in Charles I which has always enshrined him in the rather affectionate memory of large sections of his countrymen. There was something grand and almost heroic in the intellectual scope and imagination of Napoleon. Those are the two cases which are commonly quoted as justifying the belief that if you treat an individual with severity you not only make him a martyr but you create a legend. I confess I do not myself see in the German Emperor the stuff out of which a legendary hero can be made. The man who was not only pay of the atrocities to which reference has been made, but who ignominiously ran away from his country as soon as it was in a difficult place, is a man whom one cannot imagine either as a hero or treat as a martyr. I do not think my noble and learned friend opposite was correct when he suggested that the idea of the trial of the German Emperor was first heard of at the General Election; in fact, he treated the whole matter as if it were rather an electioneering cry invented by the Prime Minister and all the sinister persons associated with him. That is not my recollection of the case. It certainly was many weeks—I would even say months—before the General Election that the matter was under discussion between the Powers, and I myself on one occasion was deputed to discuss it with ref representatives of our Allies in Paris; and although it assumed a prominent place on the electoral platform, the decision had been arrived at long before, not only in this country but in France and elsewhere, and, if the noble Lord will allow me to assure him so, arrived at wholly independent of the baser considerations to which he referred. Again, the noble Lord went on to say that in his view what our people wanted was punishment and not trial. Surely that is a very strange way of representing the mentality of the Englishman. It is exactly what the Englishman does not want. The Englishman was, I think, keen for punishment in the case of the Kaiser, but punishment only as the result of trial, and it seems foreign to all our ideas of equity and indeed of jurisprudence that we should concentrate ourselves upon the punishment without providing for the trial by which that punishment is justified. One other point in reference to the suggestion that the Emperor might safely be left in Holland. Is the Kaiser, living just across the German border, so safe and so harmless in Holland as noble Lords appear to imagine? Is there not a party in Germany already agitating for his return? Are there not many evidences that the military party in Germany still regard him as their hero; and is Europe, is the cause for which we have been fighting and which we have won, really safe as long as he remains in the geographical position which he at the present moment occupies? The noble and learned Lord has stated with great emphasis the views which he holds upon the matter. They are not the views which commend themselves not merely to this country but to the Allied Powers. In the whole of his remarks there was implied the suggestion that it was we in particular who held these views about the trial and judgment of the Kaiser. That is not the case. If the noble Viscount will look at the Peace Treaty he will find that the demand for these proceedings is a unanimous demand. It was not put forward by England. It was not accepted only by the great belligerent Powers. There are appended to this clause, in common with the whole Treaty, the signatures of five great Powers and of twenty-two minor Powers—of twenty-seven in all. And that demand was met and was accepted at Versailles by the representatives of the German Empire. What is the real inner meaning of the whole thing? Do we, any of us, at the bottom of our hearts believe that the German Emperor more than any other individual man was responsible for the shocking breach of faith by which the war began; that more than any individual man he was responsible for the terrible crimes and atrocities by which the war was disfigured; that more than any individual man he has upon his shoulders for all time the burden of the appalling, the almost immeasurable calamities, by which the world in consequence of the war has been overwhelmed? He was all-powerful. He never ceased to tell us that he was supreme in war and in policy. It was difficult from the tenor of his speeches to determine whether he regarded himself as a special protégé of the Almighty, or whether he regarded the Almighty as being under his special patronage. And he used that power to foster a spirit, hopelessly inconsistent with the ideals which are now ruling the world, to forge a weapon against the liberties of the world, and to prosecute a war which has been stained with every variety of abomination and crime. Surely such a man ought, if the opportunity occurs, to be tried, to be judged, and, if he is found guilty, to be condemned.
May I ask if it is proposed to try him for the atrocities which were committed on the battlefield and on the seas?
EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
That is a perfectly fair question to put, and it brings me to the point of which I next took note in the speech of the noble and learned Lord. He said—and I think the noble Viscount said also—that this was an unprecedented procedure. Quite true. The case also is unprecedented, and I think the criminal, if one may so call him—the defendant—is also without precedent or parallel. But what is he to be tried for, and how is he to be tried? The noble and learned Lord, who is a great master of law, is perfectly entitled to point out that it is not proposed to try him under any recognised Code or Statute. So far as I know, there is no Code of law under which he is to be arraigned. The law by which he is being tried is the higher law—I think the noble and learned Viscount used a phrase "the higher law of international morality"—that is the basis of the entire new conceptions which are the result of this Peace Treaty and the League of Nations, and of which this is the first concrete exhibition.Let me read the terms of the reply that was made by the Allied Powers at Paris to the protest of the German Government on this point—
Is it not clear under those terms that there can be brought up in the arraignment of the ex-Kaiser all the matters to which the noble and learned Lord referred? I, at any rate, assume that this is the case, and shall be very much surprised if it not. The noble and learned Lord went on to mention, and, if I may say so, to magnify, the difficulties and delays that are likely to be caused by the summoning of witnesses and by the length of time that may be consumed in this procedure. I confess I think those fears are exaggerated. But what did surprise me even more was when the noble Lord came to the question of the tribunal itself, and when he argued to your Lordships that as this tribunal ought to be an impartial one it was not right that any British Judge should be asked to take a seat upon it, because he would be doing the work of the Government. I most utterly and emphatically repudiate that suggestion. It is not the work of the Government, it is the interpretation of the International Code of Morals laid down in Paris. That Code the Judge will be invited to interpret along with his colleagues from the other great Powers. The noble and learned Lord talked as if some invidious and impossible duty was being imposed upon an English Judge alone. He says, "You are always taking English Judges from their work and making them do all sorts of things. Why do you make him do this." He is to sit there with Judges from the other great Powers. He will be one of four or five (I forget what the total is); and, believing as I do just as emphatically as the noble and learned Lord, in what he called "the light of English justice" I see nothing whatever to dim that light in the selection of any member of the English Bench to sit upon this tribunal; indeed, the selection of England for the place where the trial is to take place largely rested upon the belief that from the English Bench you would be able to secure one Judge, at any rate, not only as impartial as, but, if possible, more impartial than, you would secure in any of the other countries affected. I can well understand that there may be differences of opinion as to the question of where the trial is to be held. It may very likely be that it will not be held in London. There is great force in that consideration—"Finally, they wish to make it clear that the public arraignment under Article 227 framed against the German ex-Emperor has not a juridical character as regards its substance but only in its form. The ex-Emperor is arraigned as a matter of high international polity, as the minimum of what is demanded for a supreme offence against international morality, the sanctity of treaties, and the essential rules of justice. The Allied and Associated Powers have desired that judicial forms, a judicial procedure, and a regularly constituted tribunal should be set up in order to assure to the accused full rights and liberties in regard to his defence, and in order that the judgment should be of the most solemn judicial character."
EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Not converting this into a spectacular show, and not producing a situation in which public opinion will manifest itself on one side or another, and not interrupting the daily threat of our national life, but allowing us to resume our own business without any distracting associations of that description. Those considerations I think are patent, and, as your Lordships' cheer shows, important. No final decision has been arrived at on that point, and when the trial takes place, if it takes place within these shores, it by no means follows that London will be the place selected for the holding of the tribunal.I think I have now dealt with the whole of the remarks which were made by my noble friends, and I would only say one thing further. One of the strongest points of this Treaty, to which they did not allude, was this—that whereas all preceding Treaties have been regarded by their authors as sacrosanct, as instruments which it was impossible to revise until they were revised by the progress of events and very likely thrown into the limbo of obscurity, special provisions are made in this Treaty by which it can be revised and by which the League of Nations will have an opportunity from time to time, not merely to administer and interpret it, but to review and, if necessary, to alter its provisions. That, I think, is one of the most important provisions which it contains. It only remains for me, in conclusion, to say that I think this debate has shown, as the debates in the other House of Parliament have shown, that although there are points in this Treaty which admit of very justifiable criticism, no substantial injury or wrong has been done to any interests or to any people. On the contrary, considering the great and complex field over which it wanders, it has been received with an almost unanimous endorsement, for which all the Powers are extremely grateful, and for which, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, I cannot but express my recognition this afternoon.
On Question, Bill read 2a .
Then (Standing Order No. X XXIX having been suspended). Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The EARL of KINTORE in the CHAIR.]
Power of His Majesty to give effect to Peace Treaty.
1.—(1) His Majesty may make such appointments, establish such offices, make such Orders in Council, and do such things as appear to him to be necessary for carrying out the said Treaty, and for giving effect to any of the provisions of the said Treaty.
(2) Any Order in Council made under this Act may provide for the imposition by summary process or otherwise of penalties in respect of breaches of the provisions thereof, and shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it it made and shall have effect as if enacted in this Act, but may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order in Council and shall not be deemed to be a statutory rule within the meaning of section one of the Rules Publication Act, 1893.
(3) Any expenses incurred in carrying out the said Treaty shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament.
EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
When this Bill was in another place a question was raised about the Orders in Council which under the Bill will be required for carrying out is provisions, and the case was raised of an Order in Council which it might be the duty of the Government to issue when Parliament was not sitting. The question was asked, therefore, whether Parliament would have any opportunity, in its inability to deal with the matter at the time of its issue, to express an opinion, whether favourable or the reverse, at a later date. The Prime Minister promised to meet this point, and to introduce an Amendment enabling either House to present an Address against any Order which had been laid, with a view of, if necessary, expressing their dissent from it and censure of the conduct the Government had pursued. It is in pursuance of this pledge that I ask your Lordships' consent to this Amendment.
Clause 1, page 1, line 24, at the end insert ("Provided that if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next twenty-one days on which that House has sat after any Order in Council made under this Act has been laid before it praying that the order or any part thereof may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the Order or such part of it and it shall forth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder").—(Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
Remaining clause agreed to.
House resumed, and Amendment reported.
Bill read 3a and passed, and returned to the Commons.