« AnteriorContinuar »
a Government representing not a party but the nation as a whole. However, as a Cabinet cannot possibly act with unanimity, foresight, energy, rapidity, and secrecy, it seems indispensable that the Cabinet should entrust the supreme direction of affairs to a single strong man supported by a small number of expert advisers who are not his equals but distinctly his subordinates. A democracy at war requires for its salvation a kind of Dictator, an Abraham Lincoln, and British statesmen will do well to ponder over the most important views of the founders of the American Commonwealth given in the beginning of this chapter.
Many politicians and numerous organs of the Press have urged that the situation calls for a Dictator, and have regretted that no man of transcendent ability has come forward to whom the Government could be entrusted for the duration of the War. It is, however, perhaps unnecessary to wait for the advent of a Chatham. Government by a single man of moderate, or even of inferior, ability, will probably prove far more efficient than government by twentytwo very able men, non-experts, who possess, at least theoretically, equal power and authority in directing the affairs of the nation. The British Constitution is unwritten, is fluid, is adaptable to the necessities of the moment. It has been created by gradual evolution, and it lends itself easily to the creation of a one-man Government for the duration of the War. The Prime Minister need only be made solely responsible for the conduct of the Government in all its branches during the War. By thus increasing the power of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Ministers would be made responsible merely for their departments. They would be responsible to the Prime Minister, and he to Parliament. Cabinet Ministers could therefore devote themselves practically entirely to their administrative duties. They would become the Prime Minister's subordinates. He would assume sole responsibility for important decisions. He would consult the Cabinet Ministers, but could no longer be hampered in his action by the opposition of one or several of his colleagues. The direction of affairs would no longer be in the hands of an unwieldy body, such as could not successfully direct any business. The State would possess a managing director, as does every business, and thus foresight, unity, energy, despatch, and secrecy in action might be secured.
Many Englishmen extol the voluntary system and oppose compulsory service because in their opinion compulsion, conscription, is undemocratic. Most of these are quite unaware that the greatest, the freest, and the most unruly democracy in the world gladly submitted to conscription half a century ago, and appear to forget that France and Switzerland recognise that the first duty of the citizen consists in defending his country. If the United States found conscription necessary to prevent the Southern States breaking away and forming a government of their own, how much more necessary is the abandonment of the voluntary system when not merely the integrity but the existence of Great Britain and of the Empire is at stake !
The American War was unnecessarily protracted because the North had never enough troops to crush the rebellion. On July 3, 1862, President Lincoln wrote despairingly a confidential letter to the Governors of various States worded as follows:
I should not want the half of 300,000 new troops if I could have them now. If I had 50,000 additional troops here now, I believe I could substantially close the War in two weeks. But time is everything, and if I get 50,000 new men in a month I shall have lost 20,000 old ones during the same month, having gained only 30,000, with the difference between old and new troops still against me. The quicker you send, the fewer you will have to send. Time is everything. Please act in view of this. .
While the Southern States armed their whole able-bodied population at an early date, the Northern States were late in introducing conscription. Besides, conscription was with them only a half-measure, as has been shown. They introduced it only on March 3, 1863, two years after the outbreak of the war, and as they failed to arm all available men the war dragged on for two whole years after conscription had been introduced. The four-fold superiority in able-bodied men and the fifteen-fold superiority in wealth would undoubtedly have given to the Northern States a rapid and complete victory had they acted with their entire national strength at the outset.
The United Kingdom and the British Empire have made enormous efforts, but greater ones will be needed. The United States have provided this country with a great and inspiring precedent. The Northern States placed 10 per cent. and the Southern States 20 per cent. of their entire population in the field, as has been shown on another page. If Great Britain should follow the example of the Northern States she alone should be able to raise 4,500,000 men. If she should follow the example of the South she should be able to provide 9,000,000 soldiers. The British losses during the first years of war have been appalling, but they are small if compared with those incurred by the Americans in the Civil War. If Great Britain should lose men at the same rate as the Northern States, her dead would number about 1,000,000. At the proportion of the Southern States her dead would number about 4,000,000. Great Britain and her daughter-States have an opportunity of demonstrating to the world that they have as much energy, resourcefulness, patriotism, and vitality as the men who laid down their lives in the terrible campaign of 1861–65. If the United States were ready to make the greatest sacrifices for preserving their Union, the United Kingdom and the Dominions should be willing to make sacrifices at least as great for the sake of their existence.
The story of the Civil War provides invaluable lessons to this country. It shows that the United States were saved by two factors, by one-man government and by conscription. It shows that far greater exertions than those
made hitherto are wanted by Motherland and Empire-and that they can be made. It shows that the sooner conscription is introduced throughout the Empire, the more energetically national service is enforced, and the more fully the whole manhood of the Empire States is employed in the War, the smaller will be its cost in blood and money, and the sooner it will be over. At the same time, the Civil War furnishes the gravest warnings to the United States. It should show them the danger of unpreparedness. The European crisis may become their crisis as well.
At the dedication of the Soldiers' Cemetery in 1863, Abraham Lincoln pronounced the following immortal words:
It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
These words are known by heart by every American schoolboy. They may well serve as a memento and as a motto to Englishmen of the present generation and inspire them in the heavy task which lies before them.
AN ANGLO-AMERICAN REUNION 1
On Christmas Eve, 1814, in the old Carthusian Convent in the city of Ghent, a peace was signed which brought to an end the Anglo-American War of 1812–14, and on Christmas Eve, 1914, occurred the one hundredth anniversary of that memorable event. To celebrate worthily the Hundred Years' Peace between the British nation and the United States powerful committees were formed in the United States, in Canada, and in this country, and they resolved to observe it by religious services and various festivities, by purchasing, by popular subscription, Sulgrave Manor, Washington's ancestral home in England, by placing a statue of George Washington in Westminster Abbey, by erecting monumental arches and columns on the United States-Canadian boundary, by erecting imposing memorial buildings in London, New York, and elsewhere, by creating a park at the Niagara Falls and a toll-free International Peace Bridge over the Niagara River which separates the United States from Canada, and by giving prizes for improved text-books on Anglo-American history, designed to improve relations between the two countries. Senator Burton introduced a Bill in the United States Senate providing for the creation of a Peace Celebration Committee, and appropriating £1,500,000 to be spent on the celebration provided that the nations of the British Empire would furnish 'such sum or sums as will equal the amount or
1 The Nineteenth Century and After, September, 1913.