Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Monday, 4 August 2008

Churchill on the Great War

It was a time described by historian A.J.P. Taylor as:

Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other sort of currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service. An Englishman could enlist, if he chose, in the regular army, the navy or the territorials. He could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. Substantial householders were occasionally called on to perform jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so.
But that was about to change severely. UK Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey had said the previous day:
The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
On August 4, 1914 – 94 years ago – the United Kingdom declared war on Imperial Germany.

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill was involved in the affairs of war at this time. That, however, is another story. Today we present quotes from Churchill’s six-volume work The Second World War, whose first volume was first published 60 years ago this year. We present extracts regarding World War I from volume 1, chapter 1; The Follies of the Victors 1919-1929. We let readers judge for themselves. The theme of the first volume was:

Churchill says:
     In the summer of 1919 the Allied Armies stood along the Rhine, and their bridgeheads bulged deeply into defeated, disarmed and hungry Germany. The chiefs of the victor Powers debated and disputed the future in Paris. Before them lay the map of Europe to be redrawn almost as they might resolve. After fifty-two months of agony and hazards the Teutonic coalition lay at their mercy, and not one of its four members could offer the slightest resistance to their will. Germany, the head and forefront of the offence, regarded by all as the prime cause of the catastrophe which had fallen upon the world, was at the mercy or discretion of conquerors, themselves reeling from the torment they had endured. Moreover, this had been a war, not of Governments, but of peoples. The whole life-energy of the greatest nations had been poured out in wrath and slaughter. The war leaders assembled in Paris had been borne thither upon the strongest and most furious tides that have ever flown in human history. Gone were the treaties of Utrecht and Vienna, when aristocratic statesmen and diplomats, victor and vanquished alike, met in polite and courtly disputation, and, free from the clatter and babel of democracy, could reshape systems upon the fundamentals of which they were all agreed. The peoples, transported by their sufferings and by the mass teachings with which they had been inspired, stood around in scores of millions to demand that retribution should be exacted to the full. Woe betide the leaders now perched on their dizzy pinnacles of triumph if they cast away at the conference table what the soldiers had won on a hundred blood-soaked battlefields.
Churchill goes on:
The territorial provisions of the Treaty of Versailles left Germany practically intact. She still remained the largest homogeneous racial block in Europe. When Marshal Foch heard of the signing of the Peace Treaty of Versailles he observed with singular accuracy: “This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years.”
     The economic clauses of the Treaty were malignant and silly to an extent that made them obviously futile. Germany was condemned to pay reparations on a fabulous scale. These dictates gave expression to the anger of the victors, and to the failure of their peoples to understand that no defeated nation or community can ever pay tribute on a scale which would meet the costs of modern war.
     The multitudes remained plunged in ignorance of the simplest economic facts, and their leaders, seeking their votes, did not dare to undeceive them. The newspapers, after their fashion, reflected and emphasised the prevailing opinions. Few voices were raised to explain that payment of reparations can only be made by services of by the physical transportation of goods in wagons across land frontiers or in ships across salt water; or that when goods arrive in the demanding countries, they dislocate the local industry except in very primitive or rigorously-controlled societies. In practice, as even the Russians have now learned, the only way of pillaging a defeated nation is to cart away any movables which are wanted, and to drive off a portion of its manhood as permanent or temporary slaves. But the profit gained from such processes bears no relation to the cost of war. No one in great authority had the wit, ascendancy, or detachment from public folly, to declare these fundamental, brutal facts to the electorates; nor would anyone have been believed if he had. The triumphant Allies continued to assert that they would squeeze Germany “till the pips squeaked”. All this had a potent bearing on the prosperity of the world and the mood of the German race.
Yet further:
     The second cardinal tragedy was the complete break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by the Treaties of St. Germain and Trianon. For centuries this surviving embodiment of the Holy Roman Empire had afforded a common life, with advantages in trade and security, to a large number of people, none of whom in our own time had the strength or vitality to stand by themselves in the face of pressure from a revivified Germany or Russia. All these races wished to break away from the Federal or Imperial structure, and to encourage their desires was deemed a liberal policy. The Balkanisation of South-Eastern Europe proceeded apace, with the consequent relative aggrandisement of Prussia and the German Reich, which, though tired and war-scarred, was intact and locally overwhelming. There is not one of the peoples or provinces that constituted the Empire of the Hapsburgs to whom gaining their independence has not brought the tortures which ancient poets and theologicians had reserved for the damned. The noble capital of Vienna, the home of so much long-defended culture and tradition, the centre of so many roads, rivers, and railways, was left stark and starving, like a great emporium in an impoverished district whose inhabitants have mostly departed.
     The victors imposed upon the Germans all the long-sought ideals of the liberal nations of the West. They were relieved from the burden of compulsory military service and from the need of keeping up heavy armaments. The enormous American loans were presently pressed upon them, though they had no credit. A democratic constitution, in accordance with all the latest improvements, was established at Weimar. Emperors having been driven out, nonentities were elected. Beneath this flimsy fabric raged the passion of the mighty, defeated, but substantially uninjured German nation. The prejudice of the Americans against monarchy, which Mr. Lloyd George made no attempt to counteract, had made it clear to the beaten Empire that it would have better treatment from the Allies as a Republic than as a Monarchy. Wise policy would have crowned and fortified the Weimar Republic with a constitutional sovereign in the person of an infant grandson of the Kaiser, under a Council of Regency. Instead, a gaping void was opened in the national life of the German people. All the strong elements, military and feudal, which might have rallied to a constitutional monarchy and for its sake respected and sustained the new democratic and Parliamentary processes, were for the time being unhinged. The Weimar Republic, with all its liberal trappings and blessings, was regarded as an imposition of the enemy. It could not hold the loyalties of the German people. For a spell they sought to cling as in desperation to the aged Marshal Hindenburg. Thereafter mighty forces were adrift, the void was open, and into that void after a pause there strode a maniac of ferocious genius, the repository and expression of the most virulent hatreds that have corroded the human breast – Corporal Hitler.
He continues:
     While all these untoward events were taking place, amid a ceaseless chatter of well-meant platitudes on both sides of the Atlantic, a new and more terrible cause of quarrel than the Imperialism of Czars and Kaisers became apparent in Europe. The Civil War in Russia ended in the absolute victory of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Soviet Armies which advanced to subjugate Poland were indeed repulsed in the battle of Warsaw, but Germany and Italy nearly succumbed to Communist propaganda and designs, and Hungary actually fell for a while under the control of the Communist dictator, Bela Kun. Although Marshal Foch wisely observed that “Bolshevism had never crossed the frontiers of victory”, the foundations of European civilisation trembled in the early post-war years. Fascism was the shadow of ugly child of Communism. While Corporal Hitler was making himself useful to the German officer-class in Munich by arousing soldiers and workers to fierce hatred of Jews and Communists, on whom he laid the blame of Germany’s defeat, another adventurer, Benito Mussolini, provided Italy with a new theme of government which, while it claimed to save the Italian people from Communism, raised himself to dictatorial power. As Fascism sprang from Communism, so Nazism developed from Fascism. Thus were set on foot those kindred movements which were destined soon to plunge the world into even more hideous strife, which none can say have ended with their destruction.
There is also some correspondence. We cite from volume 6 a message:
Prime Minister to Foreign Office          8 Apr 45
     This war would never have come unless, under American and modernising pressure, we had driven the Habsburgs out of Austria and Hungary and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany. By making these vacuums we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer on to the vacant thrones. No doubt these views are very unfashionable....
Another message, three and a half weeks later:
Prime Minister to Sir H. Knatchbull-Hugessen (Brussels)          26 Apr 45
     It is no part of the policy of His Majesty’s Government to hunt down the Archduke Otto of Habsburg or to treat as if it were a criminal organisation the loyalty which many Austrians friendly to Britain cherish for their ancient monarchy. We should not actively intervene on their behalf, being at all times resolved that in any case where we are forced for the time being to depart from the ideal of non-intervention our guide is the will of the people, expressed by the vote of a free, unfettered, secret ballot, universal suffrage election. The principle of a constitutional monarchy, provided it is based on the will of the people, is not, oddly enough, abhorrent to the British mind.
     2. Personally, having lived through all these European disturbances and studied carefully their causes, I am of opinion that if the Allies at the peace table in Versailles had not imagined that the sweeping away of long-established dynasties was a form of progress, and if they had allowed a Hohenzollern, a Wittelsbach, and a Habsburg to return to their thrones, there would have been no Hitler. To Germany a symbolic point on which the loyalties of the military classes could centre would have been found, and a democratic basis of society might have been preserved by a crowned Weimar in contact with the victorious Allies. This is a personal view, but perhaps you would meditate upon it.


Lord Best said...

"For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police."

I wonder how that would be recieved by the public today.

Beaverbrook said...

I am of course the proud owner of Churchill's Second World War volumes, as well as his English-Speaking Peoples. I agree with all of his findings, but more than that, it is such a joy to read them. The man was a master of the English language.

Beaverbrook said...

The Treaty of Versaille in the popular imagination is one of the great chances of history flushed down the toilet.

But there was a greater failed opportunity that happened almost 20 years earlier at the funeral of Queen Victoria, and those were the overtures of the Kaiser to the new King Edward: "Not a mouse could stir in Europe without our permission", was the way he visualized an Anglo-German alliance.

The trouble was that the Kaiser wanted an agreement with England without seeming to want it. As soon as the English showed signs of willingness, he veered off suspecting some trick. Instead they preferred to stay away altogether and let an ever growing German navy into frightening the English into coming to terms. The Kaiser never believed that the British would ever come to terms with the French, and when they did it threw him into a tremendous rage. He had long complained that world leaders had always preferred to visit Paris over Berlin, Paris that city that he always wanted to visit but was never invited.

So hear is the sad reality that led to the World Wars: The Kaiser's ridiculous insecurity and ego, and the fact that the British were too stupid to play to it, choosing to offend it instead. And millions died as a result.

Anonymous said...

The principle of limited goverment lies at the very essence of monarchism. There CAN be no more limited government that rule by a single individual. Monarchy is IMHO the leanest, fittest, most efficient - and therefore the best - form of government yet discovered by mankind.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

I am of course the proud owner of Churchill's Second World War volumes, as well as his English-Speaking Peoples.

What about?:

* World Crisis
* The Unknown War: The Eastern Front
* The Aftermath

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Thanks to "Lord Beaverbrook" for interesting comments.

"Popular imagination" is indeed an appropriate term for the Versailles treaty.

In the comic book version of history this treaty defined failure or success.

As "Lord Breaverbrook" touches on, there were defining processes before that. The Allied manipulation to contribute to the dethroning of the two Kaisers was done long before Versailles. In fact, the rule of the two Kaisers had ended by November 11, 1918.

Moreover, in the comic book version of history Germany was solely responsible for outbreak of the war. The real history, however, is more complicated.

Furthermore, in the comic book version of history too much power to Kings and Emperors caused the war. Fact is that they were not the ones pushing for war.

As for Kaiser Wilhelm never being invited to Paris, that is probably due to the French just waiting for a revenge for 1871.

Also, how much the talk of the German Emperor's personality is truth and how much is survived propaganda is a debate in itself.

Shaftesbury said...

The problem was never Germany - the problem was Prussia ...

J.K. Baltzersen said...

The problem was never Germany - the problem was Prussia ...

To some extent, I would agree with you, sir. I would say I prefer the pre-1871, decentralized German order.

I am, however, not willing to put all the blame on Prussia.

Also, eventually arose far greater problems than Prussian militarism and want for dominance, etc., namely Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and what they stood for, and more premanently, the Wilsonian World Order.