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XXV

The Peace Conference and


Disillusion
CHURCHILL OFTEN DESCRIBES HIS MOOD WHEN HE MUSES upon what
might have been. In moments of reflection he disinters a
buried hope. I wonder if, after the treaties were signed at
Versailles, he thought of the speech he made in November
1912, in which he said: "The only epitaph which history
could write on such a catastrophe [a general war] would be
that this whole generation of men went mad and tore
themselves to pieces."1
This is exactly what had happened. It seems to me it is
impossible for any intelligent person to study the
proceedings of the Paris Conference and come to any other
conclusion than that its decisions were made by men bereft
of reason.
Victory seemed to have paralyzed their powers of
thought, and vengeance was the actuating impulse of their
deliberations. Lloyd George gives his version of the story of
the Round Robin, signed by 233 Coalition members of the
Commons. It was Kennedy Jones, the associate of Lord
Northcliffe, who was one of the instigators of it, and Lord
Halifax—then Major Wood— was one of his chief
supporters. This petition was in the nature of a demand for
every pound of flesh. It said, in part:
The greatest anxiety exists throughout the country at the
persistent reports from Paris that the British delegates instead of
formulating the complete financial claim of the
1
Cit. supra., p. 234.
254
The Peace Conference and Disillusion 255

Empire are merely considering what amount can be exacted


from the enemy. . . .2
The story of this petition and its effect upon the Peace
Conference was known to only a few. Robert Lansing, United
States Secretary of State, and Dr. Fred Howe were two of the
American deputation who spoke about it when they returned
home. In England I met no one, outside the circles of those who
signed it, who knew of its existence. It was not until John
Middleton Murry published in 1940 his book, The Betrayal of
Christ by the Churches,3 that the facts concerning the Round
Robin were made public. Lord Halifax (Major Wood) spoke at
Oxford in February 1940 and said: "I suspect that you see us as
people who, though no doubt well-meaning, have made havoc of
the world in which you now have to live."
Murry took this for a text and exposed the shameless cant of
Halifax's speech to the young men of Oxford who were to be
sacrificed in the war. Murry said:
... In his carefully presented picture German youth is made to
appear as a creation ex nihilo: a monstrous phenomenon without
antecedents or origin, hardly less than the embodiment in a
national age-group of the mystery of iniquity itself. . . .
This abstraction of German youth from the process of history
is travesty of the facts. The emergence of a generation of
Germans imbued with the conviction that Might is Right and
possessed by the passion for revenge was prophesied to be the
inevitable consequence of the imposition of the Treaty of
Versailles by a Conservative journalist so little inclined to
excessive sympathy with the Germans as Mr. J. L. Garvin, at the
time of the Treaty itself.
If the phrase Christian statesman has any meaning at all, it
was the duty of Lord Halifax, above all other statesmen, not to
represent the passion, the devotion, and the despair of German
youth as an eruption of uncaused malignancy in the spiritual
history of Europe. ... He virtually exonerated
2
Memoirs of the Peace Conference, Vol. I, p. 374.
3
London: Andrew Dakers, 1940.
256 The Churchill Legend

himself and his generation, and placed the responsibility for the
darkness of Europe on the shoulders of German youth.4
How many of the audience at Oxford knew the Foreign
Secretary and Chancellor of the University was Edward
Frederick Lindley Wood, who sat for the Ripon Division of
Yorkshire, and that he was one of the chief persons
concerned in promoting the Round Robin? The signatories
sent a telegram to Lloyd George when he was at the
conference in Paris "demanding the utmost severity for
Germany."
Murry says:
Clemenceau knew of the intrigue and the telegram; he was
probably a party to the whole manoeuvre, for the sending of the
telegram deplorably weakened Mr. Lloyd George's position vis-
a-vis himself at the Peace Conference. The sending of that
telegram . . . was politically irresponsible, for it placed the
destinies of Europe in the hands of M. Clemenceau. . . .
The origins of contemporary German youth are to be sought
in Lord Halifax's own past; their spiritual progenitor is Major
Edward Wood, M.P., of the Yorkshire Dragoons.5
The Round Robin and the vengeance telegram were
responsible for the vindictive peace of Versailles. The
British Prime Minister presented a memorandum to the
Conference on March 25, 1919, stating:
... If she [Germany] feels that she has been unjustly treated in the
peace of 1919 she will find means of exacting retribution from
her conquerors. . . . The maintenance of peace will . . . depend
upon there being no causes of exasperation constantly stirring up
the spirit of patriotism, of justice or of fairplay. To achieve
redress our terms may be severe, they may be stern and even
ruthless, but at the same time they can be so just that the country
on which they are imposed will feel in its heart that it has no
right to complain. But injustice, arrogance, displayed in the hour
of triumph, will never be forgotten or forgiven.6
It was Halifax and his friends who were responsible for
creating a condition in which the youth of Germany
4
Quoted by Porter Sargent, War and Education (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1943), p. 288.
5 6
Ibid., pp. 295-6. Lloyd George, Mem. of the Peace Conf., Vol. I, p. 267.
The Peace Conference and Disillusion 257

would welcome a man to champion their cause. The drivel that


has been talked and written about the mentality of German youth
is nauseating. What would the youth of Britain do, had they been
subjected to a peace worse than war? The cant and hypocrisy of
war-minded Englishmen smells to heaven. Small wonder we are
looked upon by so many foreigners as "a nation of canting
humbugs." Yet, no one abroad has denounced us in such scathing
terms as our own critics. We of whom Lord Acton says, "No
Christian annals are so sanguinary as ours," dare to hold any foe
in contempt!
It is time we knew ourselves and took St. Bernard's course in
humility. The difficulty in taking that step is that our people now
have no time to read history. Although our story is extant for
students, the masses show no interest in it. If the story of the
making of the Treaty of Versailles had been told to the British
people, there would have been no Hitler for Churchill to
destroy— his one aim—and life and treasure would have been
saved.
Dr. E. J. Dillon, the correspondent of the Daily Telegraph,
wrote in his book, The Inside Story of the Peace Conference:
Never was political veracity in Europe at a lower ebb than
during the Peace Conference. The blinding dust of half-truths
cunningly mixed with falsehood and deliberately scattered with
a lavish hand, obscured the vision of the people, who were
expected to adopt or acquiesce in the judgments of their rulers
on the various questions that arose. Four and a half years of
continuous and deliberate lying for victory had disembodied the
spirit of veracity and good faith throughout the world of
politics.7
The damage done by this demand for "utmost severity" was
incalculable. Several of the members of the American delegation
had no hesitation in saying that it was conceived by people
oblivious of the consequences of reparations, for the only way
Germany could be made to pay was by using whatever little gold
there
7
p. 117.
258 The Churchill Legend

was left and satisfying the rest in goods. When it was in


operation, the deliveries of coal soon put the miners of the
Pas de Calais out of work.
Lloyd George had promised the English electors that
Germany would be made to pay the cost of the war. Klotz,
the French Finance Minister, said Germany would be made
to pay the full cost of the war; but in his case, Clemenceau
shrugged his shoulders and winked at Tardieu, saying Klotz
was the only Jew he ever met who knew nothing of
finance.8 The vengeance mood was rampant, just as fierce
in Britain as it was in France.
Charles E. Montague, who was editor of the Manchester
Guardian, wrote a book called Disenchantment, in which he
described the inclination of the Kennedy Jones-Major
Wood lot. Montague said:
Germany lay at our feet, a world's wonder of downfall, a
very Lucifer, fallen, broken, bereaved beyond all the retributive
griefs which Greek tragedy shows you afflicting the great who
were insolent, wilful, and proud. But it was not enough for our
small epicures of revenge. They wanted to twist the enemy's
wrists, where he lay bound, and to run pins into his eyes. And
they had the upper hand of us now. The soldiers could only look
on while the scurvy performance dragged itself out till the
meanest of treaties was signed at Versailles. . . .9
I think it is necessary to remind the reader of what took
place at Paris, because at a later stage I shall have to deal
with Mr. Churchill's opinion of the proceedings and what
followed from them. Moreover, the Treaty of Versailles
gave birth to Hitler, and if there had been no Fiihrer,
perhaps we should have heard little more about Churchill.
The reports of the proceedings of the Peace Conference
are to be found in many volumes obtainable in the libraries.
But for the reader's convenience, I recommend four which
differ from one another not only in points of view, but in
respect to very important details. These
8
Told by Lloyd George, Mem. of the Peace Conf., Vol. I, p. 313.
9
Op. cit. (N.Y.: Brentano's, 1922), pp. 227-8.
The Peace Conference and Disillusion 259

are: Lloyd George's Memoirs of the Peace Conference; Andre


Tardieu's The Truth About the Treaty; John May-nard Keynes,
The Economic Consequences of the Peace; and Dr. E. J. Dillon's
The Inside Story of the Peace Conference. These works will give
the reader all the necessary information about the conferences
held to formulate the Treaty of Versailles. Within a year after it
was made public, severe criticism fell upon its provision. Robert
Lansing, the American Secretary of State, said: "The impression
made by it is one of disappointment, of regret, and of depression.
The terms of peace appear immeasurably harsh and humiliating,
while many of them seem to me impossible of performance."10
The charge that Germany was solely responsible for the
conflict was ridiculed, not only by prominent people in England,
but in France, Italy, and America. Francesco Nitti, the Prime
Minister of Italy, wrote in his book, The Wreck of Europe:
... It will remain forever a terrible precedent in modern history that,
against all pledges, all precedents and all traditions, the representatives
of Germany were never even heard; nothing was left to them but to sign
a treaty at a moment when famine and exhaustion and threat of
revolution made it impossible not to sign it. . . .11
Long before the world ever heard the name of Hitler, many of
the statesmen of America and Europe learned that the so-called
"holy war" which was to bring about disarmament, a new life for
civilization, and other dreamy conditions, had left indelible
marks of penury upon the people of Great Britain and Europe.
Indeed, it made conditions of disillusionment ripe for dictators. It
is unthinkable that Hitler, Mussolini, and other autocrats would
have had a chance to rise if the peace had been drawn by men
with an eye to the future and deep consideration for the interests
of their own people.
Churchill played a minor role at the Paris Conference.
10
The Peace Negotiations (Boston & N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1921), p. 272.
11
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1922, p. 115-
260 The Churchill Legend

Apart from the business of the War Office, he was giving his
attention to the counter-revolution in Russia and enforcing the
blockade of Germany. There is no indication in The World Crisis
that he spared time to read the works that were pouring from the
presses of Great Britain, America, and the Continent, dealing
with the causes of the war. In briefing himself to put the case
before his readers, he was guilty of basing his charges against the
foe upon the lying propaganda fed to the people while the
conflict was in progress.
He has nothing to say about the Treaty of Versailles nor much
about the object of the war. This is a peculiar omission, for he
must have realized that the military victory by no means solved
the problems of discord in Europe. He says: "It will certainly not
fall to this generation to pronounce the final verdict upon the
Great War."12 He then lets himself loose in poetic ardor:
The curtain falls upon the long front in France and Flanders.
The soothing hands of Time and Nature, the swift repair of
peaceful industry, have already almost effaced the crater fields
and the battle lines which in a broad belt from the Vosges to the
sea lately blackened the smiling fields of France. The ruins are
rebuilt, the riven trees are replaced by new plantations. . . .
Merciful oblivion draws its veils; the crippled limp away; the
mourners fall back into the sad twilight of memory. New youth
is here to claim its rights, and the perennial stream flows forward
even in the battle zone, as if the tale were all a dream.
Is this the end? Is it to be merely a chapter in a cruel and
senseless story? Will a new generation in their turn be im-
molated to square the black accounts of Teuton and Gaul? Will
our children bleed and gasp again in devastated lands? Or will
there spring from the very fires of conflict that reconciliation of
the three giant combatants, which would unite their genius and
secure to each in safety and freedom a share in rebuilding the
glory of Europe?13
How different it all was, the world knows now! When he
wrote this lyrical account, the ruins in France were
12 13
The World Crisis (one-vol. ed.), p. 848. Ibid., pp. 848-9.
The Peace Conference and Disillusion 261

visible from the Pas de Calais to the Swiss border. In 1922,


for miles round about Verdun, the earth was black, and
great areas were treeless. It is inconceivable that a man
responsible for prosecuting the blockade of Germany with
rigor could write in a romantic strain as far removed from
the realistic picture of that time as Gaul will ever be from
Teuton. That war shattered "the glory of Europe," and in
my travels of thousands of miles in France, Belgium,
Germany and Austria during the years 1921-22, I did not
meet a single man of affairs who imagined it was possible
to restore the culture that had been destroyed.
The critics of British foreign policy from the time of the
entente to the outbreak of the war in 1914 have singled out
Grey, Asquith and Haldane as those responsible for the
conditions which existed at the end of July that year. Grey
was pilloried for the secret diplomacy. Haldane was singled
out as the man who organized the expeditionary force in
secret with the French military staff. Asquith gave his
consent to these secret engagements and deceived the
House of Commons and those members of the cabinet who
were not Liberal Leaguers.
In the books by British, French, and American authors
that deal with the causes of the war, Churchill is scarcely
ever mentioned, and few, indeed, seem to appreciate what
the mobilization of the fleet meant and how it affected the
diplomatic negotiations of the powers with the object of
averting a war. The movement of the fleet on July 24th or
25th was the crucial action which destroyed this effort. It is
conceded now that this was done without the consent of the
cabinet.
Never was a greater blunder made, for it thwarted every
hope that Grey had of a peaceful settlement. It seems
incredible that a member of a cabinet in a free parliament
could make such an antagonistic move against his
colleague. It also seems absurd that it should be done just
when Grey had been informed that the
262 The Churchill Legend

Russians and the Austrians had met to find a way out of the
difficulty. No one suspected for a moment that he told Grey
what he was going to do.
Asquith in Memories and Reflections tells us: "Winston,
who has got on all his war-paint, is longing for a sea fight
in the early hours of the morning to result in the sinking of
the Goeben."14 Mrs. Asquith records the entrance of
Churchill to the cabinet room—all smiles. The great parade
of twelve miles of ships of the British navy which he was
so proud of made no particular impression upon the enemy;
but when three cruisers were sunk by mines and the great
battleship Audacious was torpedoed, the fleet was at Scapa
Flow to await developments.
Both Fisher and Churchill blundered in an almost in-
credible manner as to anticipating the strategy of Admiral
von Tirpitz. They also underestimated the battle power of
the enemy's ships, and the skill of their sailors. All notions
of a speedy victory had to be revised, and early in the
winter of 1914-15 Lord Kitchener prophesied it would be a
long war.
There was profound all-round dissatisfaction after the
Dardanelles campaign, and Churchill left the Admiralty.
Then came the munitions scandal and, after a bitter con-
troversy, Asquith resigned. When Lloyd George became
Prime Minister, he wished to include Churchill in his
government, but Bonar Law, who was then leader of the
Tory party, protested strongly against such a move. And
when Lloyd George remarked that ' 'Mr. Churchill would be
more dangerous as a critic than as a member of the
Government," Bonar Law replied, "I would rather have him
against us every time."15
In his War Memoirs, Lloyd George quotes from letters
that he received after he appointed Churchill as Minister of
Munitions:
14
Vol. II, p. 26.
15
War Memoirs, Vol. Ill, p. 26; also see supra, p. 246.
The Peace Conference and Disillusion 263
. . . X ------ who opened the subject to me of his own accord
this evening and who has spoken to you, tells me that it will be
intensely unpopular in the Army.
I have every reason to believe the same of the Navy. . . .
He is a potential danger in opposition. In the opinion of all of
us he will as a member of the Government be an active danger in
our midst.
Another Minister wrote at the same time: "Apart from every
other consideration, is it wise for you to have as one of your
Ministers, a dangerously ambitious man? ..." And another
important Conservative Minister wrote me in a similar strain:
"As regards W. Churchill and the Government, I have made
enquiries and from what Z tells me I am satisfied it would bring
about a very grave situation in our Party. . . ,"16
But Lloyd George knew all this before the war began. In
another passage he admits it, and he realized Churchill had
' 'fewer followers than any prominent public man in
Britain."17 The reason, George says, was:
. . . His mind was a powerful machine, but there lay hidden in its
material or its make-up some obscure defect which prevented it
from always running true. They could not tell what it was. When
the mechanism went wrong, its very power made the action
disastrous, not only to himself but to the causes in which he was
engaged and the men with whom he was co-operating. . . .18
The fact, to put it bluntly, is that Churchill's interest in
politics was his own advancement. No matter what the
cause or crisis, Churchill had to be the dominant factor.
And this was well known to his colleagues by his behavior
at cabinet meetings. Nobody ever imagined that he would
play a secondary role in any of the affairs of State.
There was never such an orgy of cant and hypocrisy as
that inspired by the government when the war began. There
was not the slightest excuse for it, for the pretext of
fighting because Germany had invaded Belgium was
sufficient to rally a vast proportion of the
16 17 18
Ibid., p. 27. Ibid., p. 28. Ibid., p. 29.
264 The Churchill Legend

masses to the support of the government. The crusade to


save civilization, to destroy militarism, to protect small
nations was the veriest bunkum and those who voiced these
slogans knew they were false; indeed, secret treaties were
made (or were in the making) to undermine the culture of
Europe, to group the Allies in stronger military force, and
divide up the territories of small nations, when Germany
was defeated and the spoils were allotted to the victors.
The old god Blither never had so many worshipers. The
church of Hooker, Butler, and Sydney Smith made no
protest. The divines became rhetorical warriors and, in
some instances, they commandeered the Prince of Peace,
struck the olive branch from His hand, and thrust into it a
sword. Sir. W. Robertson Nicoll cried out at the City
Temple, "The Devil would have counselled neutrality, but
Christ has put His sword into our hands!"19 There was no
limit to such outpourings. Even the atheist, Horatio
Bottomley, at a great meeting at the Albert Hall, called
upon God to help them. Only a few poor parsons of little or
no influence refrained from following their leaders.
It was a "holy war," and the British God gave it His
blessing. It was a war for peace, and Irene guided the
bullets. It was a war for Justice, and Hatred and Mendacity
balanced the scales. When a war-mad Englishman makes a
halo to fit his own head, it is high time the saints should see
that theirs are not tarnished.
It was a war to maintain the balance of power, but no one
in authority believed it. When Britain made the entente with
France in 1904, she deprived herself of the very
independence necessary to keep it. How could she throw
her influence and weight of armaments where it was needed
when her allies, France and Russia, had aims totally
different from hers?
The Boer War was a sure sign of Britain's declining
19
See F. Neilson, How Diplomats Make War, Ch. XV, pp. 341-65.
The Peace Conference and Disillusion 265

power. It left her without a friend in the world. She found


herself weak in isolation where she had been strong, and
she woke up suddenly in 1903 to find her imperial power
challenged in the Mediterranean and in Egypt by France
and Spain, and her markets in Asia and in South America
invaded by Germany and Japan. Steel, machinery, textiles
and chemicals, once great exports, were now produced by
the United States and Germany in rapidly increasing
quantities, and these were dumped (to use Chamberlain's
term) into markets that Great Britain thought were her own
forever more.
No British statesman of any commercial nous ever
imagined that a great navy and a great army were the only
bulwarks of the balance of power. Gladstone, Disraeli, and
Salisbury, for a period of half a century, knew that free
trade, the mercantile marine and peace were the talismans
of her prowess.
The first few weeks of the war were enough to reveal the
weakness of the Allied Powers. Each had desires and aims
different from the other, and to prosecute them was to
reverse the old foreign policy of Great Britain. Russia was
to press west to the Oder and acquire the Bosphorus;
France to go east to the Rhine and absorb Morocco. Italy
was to take the Trent and demand satisfaction in the Savoy
and Riviera. These were some of the burdens of the secret
treaties.
Yet, the greatest blunder of all was in underestimating
the subtle power of Germany in arms. Allied statesmen did
not realize that because of her geographical position—foes
east and west—Germany was the only nation in Europe
that boasted a disciplined people in crisis.
This "holy war" was the womb that gave birth to Marx's
child. In every country that entered the fray, the doctrine of
Socialism made progress. Indeed, it was responsible for the
growth of this creed in England.
And when it was all over and editors and their readers
had time to think of the glorious aims that had been
266 The Churchill Legend

announced, they received a shocking jolt and soon realized


that someone had deluded them. The men who returned
from the front discovered that England was not quite the
place Mr. Lloyd George had pictured it to be. "The land fit
for heroes to live in" was somewhere else.
After the disappointments of the peace, millions set to
work to learn what it had all been about. The Daily News
said:
. . . The very first necessity of war is that truth shall be strangled.
. . . Now the truth is about to come out into the daylight and
open her lips. She will be very unlike what we thought her to
be—very unlike the fiction that has flaunted itself in the public
eye.20
This from the great Liberal daily startled the statesmen,
but nothing they could say stemmed the desire of the people
not only for knowledge of the causes of the war, but for
reasons why their aims had come to nought. Before this,
some of the north of England papers came out bluntly about
the lies that had been told. The Yorkshire Observer said:
. . . We have only the vision of the kaleidoscopic jumble of bits
of coloured news, doctored news, flatly contradictory news,
official news (telling part of a story), censored news, excluding
carefully that which is true but inconvenient.21
This is what many editors wrote, but it does not convey
all they thought. The Manchester Guardian put it in
stronger terms:
During actual war we all, to put it bluntly, had to do a good
deal of lying, active or passive, of omission if not commission,
in order to save our country from ruin. But when fighting is
over, the truth ought to be one of the first articles of diet to be
exempted from rationing.22
These are from newspapers of large circulation. I could
quote scores of well-known men who voiced similar
complaints after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
20 21 22
May 17, 1919. April 11, 1919. April 19, 1919.