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Great Britain's Sea Policy A Reply to an American Critic reprinted from 'The Atlantic Monthly'   By: (1866-1957)

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Great Britain's Sea Policy.


An article in the Atlantic Monthly for October by Mr. Arthur Bullard has set me thinking. It was hard to classify. It was not exactly pro German. Most of its general sentiments were unexceptionable. It did not seem to be written in bad faith. Yet it was full of sneers and accusations against Great Britain which almost any candid reader, who knew the facts, must see to be unfair. I did not know what to make of Mr. Bullard till at last there came across my mind an old description of a certain type, the second best type, of legendary Scotch minister: "In doctrine not vara ootstanding, but a Deevil on the moralities!"

Mr. Bullard's general doctrine is fair enough. There have been two types of foreign policy in Great Britain, one typified, if you like, by Lord North or Castlereagh or Disraeli, a type which concentrated on its country's interests and accepted the ordinary diplomatic traditions of old world Europe; the other typified by Fox, Gladstone, Campbell Bannerman, Bryce, which set before itself an ideal of righteousness and even of unselfishness in international politics. Both parties made their mistakes; but on the whole the Liberal movement in British foreign policy is generally felt to point in the right direction, and its record forms certainly a glorious page in the general history of civilization. Mr. Bullard, speaking as an enlightened American, is prepared to befriend, or at least to praise, Great Britain if she walks in Liberal paths, but intends to denounce her if she follows after Lord North. For example: he denounces the policy of the Boer War, but he praises warmly the settlement which followed it in 1906 under the guidance of Campbell Bannerman, Asquith, and Sir Edward Grey. "The granting of self government to the defeated Boers will always rank as one of the finest achievements in political history." This is all sound Liberalism, and I accept every word of it.

There is nothing peculiar, then, about Mr. Bullard's doctrine; it is only when he applies it that one discovers his true "deevilishness on the moralities." His method is to ask at once more than human nature can be expected to give, and then pour out a whole commination service of anathemas when his demands are not complied with. He begins, as it were, by saying that all he expects of Mr. X in order to love him is common honesty and truthfulness: we all agree and are edified. Then it appears that Mr. X once said he was out when he was really at home and busy. The scoundrel! A convicted liar, a man who has used the God given privilege of speech for the darkening of knowledge! How can Mr. Bullard possibly be friends with such a man?

To take one small but significant point first. Mr. Bullard, like most people, sees the need of continuity in foreign policy, and the great objections to a system in which a new government, or even a new influence at court, may upset a nation's course. But he does not see that such continuity implies some sort of compromise. A continuous foreign policy in a country governed alternately by Foxites and Northites is possible only if both parties abate their extreme pretensions. And Mr. Bullard, if I read him aright, expects it to be continuous Fox. As a matter of fact, we have had lately a continuous foreign policy in Great Britain, because Grey, while moving always as best he could toward arbitration, equity, and a "cordial understanding" with all powers who would agree to it, was felt also to be keenly alive to his duties as the steward of a great inheritance... Continue reading book >>

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