Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

speak for the Liberal party upon foreign affairs. In 1888 he spoke at a non-political dinner at Leeds. It was at the most embittered moment of the Irish conflict. But Lord Rosebery, addressing a non-political audience, was able to dispel the very atmosphere of party thought, and to touch the responsive nerve of national feeling:—

You allude to the time when I held the appointment of Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and I think that reference, coming as it does from a nonpolitical body, is one of some importance. For I believe this, that the more the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is considered as a nonpolitical officer, the better for the country. I have always held, and I hope I have proved by action, and also by want of action, that my belief is that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should speak whenever possible, and as often as possible, with the united voice of the English nation without distinction of party.

In the higher places of Liberal authority, where Lord Rosebery at that time had not attained to sit, his canon of continuity, if not rejected in theory, was as yet unregarded in practice. During the autumn of 1891 the Liberal leaders-and in 1891 he was hardly yet a Liberal leader-raised the question of Egypt. It is interesting to remember that they advocated withdrawal. Mr. Gladstone at Newcastle, in the same encyclical exposition of policy that included a benediction of the Newcastle Programme, used language which was naturally taken in France, and gladly taken by no small portion of the Liberal party, as an announcement that the speedy evacuation of Egypt was the official policy of the Liberal party. This was the true crisis of Lord Rosebery's career. He had enunciated his principle of continuity. His task now was to make it prevail upon the Liberal party against the Liberal leaders; against

Sir William Harcourt, against Mr. John Morley, against Mr. Gladstone. Lord Rosebery declined to join the Cabinet of 1892 under the terms of the party declarations which would commit the new Government to the old spirit in foreign policy and flagrantly repudiated the new. Ideas of the evacuation of Egypt were not continuity. They were, on the contrary, the policy of pendulum in the plainest shape. It was party contradiction in the crudest form. It restored the disastrous system which had made British diplomacy as unstable as water. Lord Rosebery would not move, and Lord Rosebery was indispensable. When he joined the Cabinet upon his own terms the battle seemed to be won, though it was not.

From this point, to the recent crisis with France, Lord Rosebery's action upon African affairs is in a remarkably continuous, though by no means an entirely undeviating, line. He did not abandon Uganda, and he did not evacuate Egypt. On the contrary, he was speedily called upon to be the instrument of a formal vindication of English authority in Egypt. The new Khedive dismissed Mustapha Fehmy and installed Fakhri Pasha as Prime Minister. This was an affront to Lord Cromer. Lord Rosebery authorized the pressure which compelled Abbas Hilmi to dismiss Fakhri and to accept Riaz. The army of occupation that was to be withdrawn by the Liberal party was increased by its Foreign Secretary. Within a year the young Khedive went further. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the inefficiency of his army. This form of eccentric

humor was an insult to the Sirdar. Sir Herbert Kitchener resigned, and it is interesting to remember that had any other than Lord Rosebery been Liberal Foreign Minister, strange things might have happened to deflect

the career of the victor of Omdurman. But Lord Rosebery and continuity were at the Foreign Office. The Khedive was forced to publish a dictated apology, and the Sirdar resumed his post at the Khedive's request. The principle of continuity had finally determined the future of Egypt.

Up to this point Lord Salisbury could have done nothing less and nothing more. Beyond this point Lord Rosebery went where Lord Salisbury would, perhaps, have de clined to follow, and where Lord Salisbury's initiative would certainly not have led. More vitally than any one else except Mr. Rhodes, Lord Rosebery believed not only in the maintenance, but in the expansion of the enormity of Empire. He was not subject to depressing and fallacious metaphors about the weary Titan and his cracking shoulders. His speech of March, 1893, at the Royal Colonial Institute, marked another step in the process of public and party education. It struck and captured the national imagination more than anything he had yet said:

We are engaged in pegging out claims for the future. We have to look forward beyond the chatter of platforms, and the passions of party, to the future of the race of which we are at present the trustees, and we should, in my opinion, grossly fail in the task that has been laid upon us did we shrink from responsibilities and decline to take our share in a partition of the world which we have not forced on, but which has been forced upon us.

Mr. Rhodes had found his complement at Whitehall. It is necessary to remember that Lord Rosebery became the official sponsor of the Cape-Cairo route. Of that great departure, the reconquest of the Soudan, the Fashoda crisis and the conscious inauguration of the new epoch in foreign policy, were direct results.

"If there is one rule in diplomacy which I regard as sacred, it is this, that you should never put your foot further in diplomacy than you can keep it down." In this remark from that comprehensive manifesto, the speech at Edinburgh on resigning the Liberal leadership, Lord Rosebery showed his characteristic grasp of principles. The Anglo-Congolese agreement showed the characteristic uncertainty in action. Either Lord Rosebery's memory of the most sacred maxim of diplomacy, or his judgment in applying it, was at fault, when he made, without a previous understanding with Germany, the Anglo-Congolese agreement, conceding to England the strip of territory between Tanganyika and Uganda, which would have connected South Africa and the Nile; inserted the missing link of the through route from the Cape to Cairo; and made Mr. Rhodes' most extravagant suggestion a fact. Lord Rosebery had overstretched his stride, and he had to recover his balance with as little grace as usually belongs to this manœuvre. The clause conceding the inter-lacustrine lease became, and has remained, a dead letter upon the protest of Germany against an agreement, significantly affecting her frontier, in which she had been ignored. But here, too, Lord Rosebery's idea has left an objective to his successors.

So early as 1893, when Lord Rosebery had been scarcely a year at the Foreign Office, French designs upon the Upper Nile had been forecasted by Captain Lugard with complete precision and sagacity. In that year Lord Rosebery warned Belgium against unauthorized attempts to penetrate into the Nile basin. King Leopold was seeking persistently to extend his frontier northward. France was showing a vigilant anxiety to restrain his frontier from that extension. It was sufficiently clear that

the dislike of France to have Belgium between her and the White Nile could have only one motive. Lord Rosebery, accordingly, adopted the policy of establishing the Congo State upon sufferance in the buffer position. It would have been an extremely comfortable and effective manoeuvre could it have been carried out, but it was of a too admirable simplicity to escape the intelligence of France. Lord Rosebery, by the Anglo-Congolese agreement of 1894, invited Belgium to accept a lease of the Bahr-elGhazal, as far as Fashoda. This would have completely closed the frontier of the French Congo in the direction of the Nile. It must be admitted that France was in a strong position when she protested vigorously against the attainment of that result in that fashion. She forbade King Leopold to occupy the Bahr-elGhazal, and King Leopold submitted. He was forced to content himself with the Lado endclave-an exiguous remnant, which left the Bahr-el-Ghazal and all its affluents open to French adventure. English policy had revealed a serious contemplation of the Cape to Cairo route. The attempt to cut it was perhaps irresistible, and it was not resisted. There is no need to recapitulate here the proceedings of M. Liotard and of Captain Marchand

after the failure of the Anglo-Congolese agreement. Lord Rosebery took the grave step. He forbade France to occupy the Bahr-el-Ghazal as peremptorily as France had forbidden Belgium. The intimation that any attempt on the part of France to penetrate into the basin of the Upper Nile would be regarded as an "unfriendly act," was the plainest and strongest declaration that had been made by a Foreign Secretary for many years, and by a Liberal Minister since Palmerston, and was to have, as we bave just seen, proportionately mo

mentous consequences. But Continental opinion could not believe that the principle of continuity at Whitehall had begun to inaugurate a new epoch in British Foreign policy. Lord Rosebery's warning was disregarded, and Captain Marchand was sent to Fashoda. It is safe to say that when any future declaration of that gravity is made by a Foreign Secretary, Captain Marchand will not go to Fashoda first, and no one will need to go to Canossa after. That is the advantage of continuity, that, when understood, it prevents Marchand incidents, and makes naval mobilization unnecessary. In the recent crisis, it will be observed, England founded herself upon Lord Rosebery's principles. Lord Salisbury based his summary action against France expressly upon the warning of his predecessor. Lord Rosebery hastened to point out that in this memorable instance of а "strong" foreign policy, the usual course was reversed. The Liberals were not reluctant adopters of Unionist views-the Unionists were the executors of a Liberal idea. But Lord Rosebery's speeches upon the Fashoda crisis were required to reconcile his party to the greatness of its own merits. Provincial Liberalism, at least-and we must remember that it is the great body of Liberalism— could not spontaneously abandon the habit of opposing Lord Salisbury, and of protesting upon every colorable occasion against a policy of jingoism. Provincial Liberalism finds nothing more difficult than to unlearn the language of 1880. But with the obdurate exception of the "Manchester Guardian" and its small, but respectable school, Lord Rosebery's declaration on Fashoda rallied the whole mass of Liberalism at once, and silenced where it had not, perhaps, been wholly able to persuade. The Liberal party, which as a whole up to seven

years ago, if not very much later, was inclined to contemplate the abandonment of Uganda, and the evacuation of Egypt in the old mood which had made the retrocession of the 'TransSoudan possible, realized its claim to have originated a policy which meant nothing less than that, even at the risk of war, England was prepared to enforce her claim to the whole Nile from Uganda to the Mediterranean. view of the close connection between this fact and Lord Rosebery's effort in 1894 to open an all-British route from the Cape to Cairo, it would be difficult to conceive a bolder model of a strong foreign policy.

In

Thus much for the powerful operation, and as it might be imagined for the final ascendancy, of Lord Rosebery's ideas. But before we take the ascendancy of Lord Rosebery's ideas for granted, we are forced to consider Lord Rosebery's acts, not always in correspondence, and sometimes curiously in contrast. It would be difficult to overrate the national service of the ideas themselves, but the proof that Lord Rosebery is the best executor of his own ideas and the best viudicator of his own despatches has yet to be given.

Lord Rosebery has, indeed, declared, with his usual soundness as to principles, his belief that readiness to go to war is the only strength of diplomacy, and in his Edinburgh speech, when resigning the Liberal leadership, he stated that he himself had run the risk of war. We do not know enough of the Siamese negotiations in 1894 to enable us to estimate the degree of nerve that Lord Rosebery exhibited upon that occasion. In the other prominent episodes of Lord Rosebery's career at the Foreign Office, we know that the difference between a strong and a weak foreign policy was a difference less of acts than ideas and despatches. Lord

Rosebery's despatch in 1886 did not secure the re-opening of Batoum as a free port. Lord Rosebery's ideas in 1894 could not secure the consent of Germany to the concession of the inter-lacustrine link from Belgium to us, or the consent of France to the lease of the Bahr-el-Ghazal by us to Belgium. But upon neither of these occasions would Lord Rosebery have been justified in aggressive measures. On the other hand, he had put his foot further forward than he could keep it down, and it cannot be pretended that the ineffectuality of the Batoum despatch and the contemptuous defeat of the Anglo-Congolese agreement were in themselves things to increase the reputation of the British Foreign Office.

The really disquieting weakness is the record of the Liberal party and of Lord Rosebery between his warning to France in 1895 and the crisis with France in 1898. The attitude of the Liberal party in the interval was precisely such as to encourage France to commit the "unfriendly act" against which they had warned her. France had forbidden Belgium to occupy the Bahr-el-Ghazal. We had forbidden France to occupy it. The only reasonable alternative was that we should occupy it ourselves. The indispensable preliminary to occupying it ourselves was the overthrow of the Khalifa and the reconquest of the Soudan. When the Dongola expedition was announced, in March, 1896, it was evident to every one that the reconquest of the Soudan had begun, and that England was committed to the destruction of Mahdism. But it was precisely because the advance upon Dongola must involve the reconquest of the whole Nile basin, that the official oratory of Liberalism broke out in the most formidable consensus of condemnation and abhorrence against Lord Salisbury's

Sir

Soudanese policy. There was a more real attempt than there had been at any time to create a popular agitation against the present Government. Mr. John Morley blew the "first blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regiment" of jingoism. Mr. John Morley protested against "an infatuated policy," a "clumsy blunder," a "hateful crime," which would "ruffle the susceptibilities of France.” The penetration of Mr. Asquith detected Lord Salisbury's guilty secret. "You must look upon this adventure as potentially a campaign for the reconquest of the Soudan-a tremendous adventure, whose possibilities of danger are absolutely limitless." William Harcourt denounced it as "a policy of a most perilous character, and one which ought to be most strongly condemned, and which I venture to say by the party on this side of the House will be met by the most strenuous resistance." But the characteristic exponent of the agitation against the Sirdar's advance from Wady Halfa was Mr. John Morley, and Mr. Morley regarded this new adventure of a bastard and unbridled ambition as a disclosure of a design for the permanent occupation of Egypt, and as a perilous challenge to France. These ideas were not new. The point was that they were old. They were simply the revival of the spirit which had made the evacuation of Egypt an appendage to the New castle Programme.

The strange thing is that Lord Rosebery, who had defeated the old spirit in 1892, surrendered to the lead of Mr. John Morley and Sir William Harcourt in 1896. The statesman responsible for the warning to France against "unfriendly acts" in 1895, allowed himself to appear within a twelvemonth as the opponent of the British advance towards the Upper Nile. On March 26th, 1896, Lord

Rosebery had an opportunity of speaking at Huddersfield upon the Dongola expedition, against which Sir William Harcourt, Mr. John Morley, and Mr. Asquith had already declared themselves with a violence that, as recollected now, seems equally incomprehensible and ludicrous. Lord Rosebery allowed himself to appear to have been brought into line, in a passage of extraordinary inconsistency on the part of the author of the warn, ing against "unfriendly acts" in 1895, who was also to be the author of the Fashoda speeches in 1898. At the Huddersfield meeting Lord Rosebery was facetious upon the Dongola expedition. He declared his private belief that it was not going to Khartoum, and from this jocose hypothesis he passed with the most solemn inconsequence to a warning too gloomy in its grandiosity to be very seriously sincere:

At present we feel we are being fooled . to lock your reserves in the sands of the desert where it has already before now engulfed monarchs, armies, and empires. Ladies and gentlemen, I declare it solemnly, I would support the foreign policy of the Government if I could, but they will not give me the chance.

It was a volatile infidelity to a great idea, but to observers of Lord Rosebery's character the strange seriousness of these words resides in their strange levity. Lord Rosebery has never been seen to less advantage. It was a few months before he took the final step of resigning the Liberal leadership. Nothing can be more obvious than that Lord Rosebery was not really opposed to the Soudan expedition. Nothing is more certain than that he made himself appear to be opposed to it. It was an opposition which, if it could have been successful, would, by staying the advance of the Sirdar, have promoted the mission

« AnteriorContinuar »