The Hollow Order
Rebuilding an International System That Works
THE world is confronted today with one of the most widespread and formidable revolutions in history. It is, in essence, the same revolution everywhere, even if it manifests itself in fiercely contending forms. Bolshevism, on the one hand, and Fascism or Nazism, on the other, may differ profoundly in certain respects, and are relentlessly at issue with each other along the whole line from Lisbon to Vladivostok. For all that, they are one in their essential features. Both are based on the repudiation of nineteenth century liberal individualism and on the unlimited exaltation of the state as against the citizen. They not only in fact suppress, but on principle deny, all that we in England and America mean by liberty. "To claim to reconcile the State and liberty is nonsense," said Lenin: and there are plenty of parallel passages that could be quoted from Mussolini and Hitler. Freedom of political organization, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, are ruthlessly stamped out in the interests of national unity and of the dominant political creed. The courts of law exist to enforce the political views of the governing party; the notion that they can or should be independent is regarded as an absurdity. Nor can we dismiss this revolution as a purely local phenomenon confined to the countries immediately affected by it. In both of its main manifestations it is unscrupulously aggressive, determined at all costs to spread its doctrines and aggrandize its power, whether as against its rival form or against the outside world. What is more, in both of its manifestations it enjoys the advantage of a degree of all-round organization for war such as the world has not known hitherto, and of a fanaticism only equalled by that of France in the Revolution or of Islam in its first career of conquest.
These developments menace the peace and freedom, not only of Europe, but of the whole world. Even the United States cannot afford to ignore them. Neither the Atlantic nor the Monroe Doctrine can be relied on as effective barriers against propaganda; and there is much in the social conditions as well as in the temperament of Latin America that might in certain circumstances reproduce, on a larger scale, the present situation in Spain. At the same time the first impact of the forces generated by the European Revolution will not be upon the United States, but upon that other kindred system of ordered freedom which is known as the British Empire or (in respect of the national relation of its self-governing elements) as the British Commonwealth of Nations. How we of that Commonwealth are facing, or are likely to face, our problems, both internal and external, should consequently be of greater interest to Americans today than at any previous time since Monroe and Canning combined to frustrate the far-reaching designs of the Holy Alliance more than a century ago.
But first of all it may be as well that I should remind my American readers of what the present structure of the British Commonwealth is, how it has developed, and in what respects the course of that development has differentiated it from the constitutional structure with which they are most familiar. Both systems are based on the same fundamental principles, evolved in the course of some seven centuries of a common history. The first of those principles, and an essential prerequisite of all true freedom, is the power of the executive to maintain order and enforce the law. That was secured for us by those remarkable organizers, William the Conqueror and his successors, thanks to whom England enjoyed order and unity under a strong and efficient government centuries before the rest of Europe. The second and even more important of those principles -- the one first asserted in Magna Carta -- is the "Reign of Law," the principle that the executive, however powerful, must act within the law; that the law is not a mere emanation of the will of the government, but something preëxisting and supreme, the all-enveloping medium within which, and subject to which, monarchs and governments, as well as ordinary citizens, live and move and have their being. The third principle, a natural corollary from the second, is that the law can be modified only by something approaching general consent. That requisite of consent for changing the law -- including in that term the King's right to levy taxation -- is the root from which sprang our Parliamentary system, with its representation of the various elements and interests in the national life and with its elaborate provisions for full discussion.
The system thus built up contained one grave inherent weakness: the separation of executive responsibility from legislative power and financial control, and the absence of any provision for settling the issue between the executive and the legislative power when the two were at variance. Over that issue we fought one civil war in the seventeenth century, only to learn that a parliament, as such, is incapable of governing, and that a chastened monarchy was preferable to a dictatorship. We fought a second civil war more than a century later over what was in essence the same issue -- the civil war that ended in the independence of the American Colonies. Left to themselves, the Fathers of the American Constitution found a simple device for preventing a permanent deadlock between executive and legislature in the periodical election of the Supreme Executive by the people itself. At the same time they solved the problem of coöperation between thirteen liberated and now equal sovereign states by vesting certain aspects of their sovereignty in a common federal system.
Meanwhile we in the Old Country were already groping our way towards a different solution of the same problem. The essence of that solution lay in identifying the executive government with a stable majority in the legislature by establishing the convention that the King should choose as his ministers only members of the legislature who between them can secure the support of such a majority, and by gradually vesting in those ministers all responsibility for the actual conduct of the government. That solution not only met our own needs at home, but when, seventy years after the American Revolution, a similar situation confronted us in Canada, it enabled the genius of Lord Durham to ensure the peaceful development of a second British Empire on the foundations of responsible self-government. That second Empire was quasi-federal, in so far as the sphere of colonial self-government was confined to local affairs, and a measure of general control over foreign policy and defense was exercised by the "Imperial" Government. But there was no demarcation of powers, nor did the idea of creating a true federation ever appeal either to Britain or to the colonies. Instead, by an inevitable process, the colonies gradually extended their powers, until, as Dominions, they enjoyed de facto, and finally claimed de jure, all the powers and privileges of equal sovereign nationhood with the Mother Country.
Today the British Commonwealth consists, to quote the famous definition of the Imperial Conference of 1926, of a group of "autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations."
The Crown, in fact, remains the only constitutional link binding these nations together. A slender link, it may seem, and yet it stands, actually and symbolically, for so much. For one thing, it embodies the common citizenship of the Empire. In virtue of it the Empire, while in one aspect comprising a number of completely independent governments, is yet, in another aspect, one single body of British subjects owing a common allegiance and loyalty to the same Crown and consequently also to each other. This obligation of mutual loyalty and coöperation constitutes, so to speak, the common law of the Empire -- a common law enforced, not by any central authority, but by the free action of all its governments and peoples.
Behind that common law stands the whole complex of common interests in trade and defense, of common political ideals, of common traditions and memories, which is the real binding force that holds the British Empire together; a force no less real, even if it has no legal or constitutional expression; a force whose ultimate sanction lies in the instinctive emotions and actions of all our peoples. Moreover, the part which the Crown has played in the evolution of our constitutional system at home, the peculiar character which it gives to the working of that system in practice, and the unique position to which our Monarchy has attained, all have their corresponding influence upon the constitutional tradition and outlook of the Empire as a whole.
The same process of differentiation which, in the United Kingdom, has enabled the Monarch to embody the unity and continuity of the national life, and to become the focus of all those loyalties which transcend the conflicts of the hour, has equally made it natural that he should, for the whole Empire, become the embodiment of the wider patriotism, the object of a loyalty transcending more immediate loyalties. For in each case it has enabled that higher, spiritual function of the Crown to be developed without prejudice to the fullest freedom in the conduct of governments, whether pursuing separate party policies within a nation, or separate national policies within the Empire. To that unique function no small contribution has been made by the personal character of successive sovereigns. Queen Victoria, in the course of her long reign, became not only the visible embodiment of the continuity of the Imperial system, but the loving mother of all her peoples. King Edward VII by his democratic tastes and unaffected geniality increased the popularity of the throne. King George V and his Queen, through anxious and critical years, set a standard of devotion to duty and unwearied interest in public affairs, as well as of a happy and irreproachable family life, which won for them a steadily increasing admiration and affection.
All these aspects of the British Monarchy must be kept in view in order to understand the nature of the recent crisis. The whole British Commonwealth was stirred to its very foundation, not because King Edward VIII thought of marrying a commoner, or an American citizen. That, in other circumstances, might have been a cause of general satisfaction. It was because the particular marriage contemplated seemed an impairment of the ideal of monarchy which the British peoples had set up for themselves, that they saw in it a blow both to the whole structure of their ordered freedom and to the unity of the Empire. It was a crisis of the first magnitude in Imperial relations, for, in accordance with the Statute of Westminster, a change in the succession could only be made with the unanimous agreement of all the Dominions. That the crisis was surmounted so swiftly and so easily was because it emerged that all the nations of the Empire shared the same conception of the Monarchy, and were unanimous in regarding the common Crown as of infinitely greater importance than the personality, however attractive, of its individual wearer. What was, above all, significant about the crisis was that it brought home to every Government of the Commonwealth, not only its equal status with the Mother Country, but its equal responsibility for the maintenance of the whole Imperial heritage.
The representatives of the component parts of the British Commonwealth are to meet in London in May for the Coronation of King George VI. They will meet to take part in a religious ceremony symbolical of all that the Commonwealth stands for. But they will also meet to discuss together the practical problems which confront the Commonwealth today in production and trade, in foreign policy and defense, facing the economic and political revolution in the world outside.
The most immediate and urgent of those problems concern foreign policy and defense. They are problems which in the postwar period have been allowed to fall into the background, for a variety of reasons. For one thing there was no immediate danger. The military predominance of France and her allies secured the peace of Europe. The Washington Treaties provided relative stability in the Far East. Again, the British Government, and the other Commonwealth Governments following its lead, were wedded to the illusion that the League of Nations could provide effective machinery for preventing war and settling international differences, and that, consequently, there was no need for any positive British foreign policy apart from support of Geneva. The last few years have in this respect witnessed a disillusionment no less complete because it is, even now, not fully avowed. The collapse of the Disarmament Conference and the ever-increasing armaments of Europe; the Manchurian, Abyssinian and Rhineland episodes; the fact that three of the world's greatest military Powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, frankly reject the whole conception of League authority -- all these things have led to one irresistible conclusion.
The League of Nations may yet do work of the highest international value as a permanent conference of the nations, as a standing machinery for conciliation, as the center and focus of many beneficent international activities. But as an effective instrument for the maintenance of universal peace, whether by economic or military coercion, it is finally out of the picture. It therefore can no longer dominate or even influence, in any direct sense, the foreign or defense policies of the nations. These will be governed, in the future as in the past, by the interaction of the basic facts of geography and economics with the interests and ambitions of individual states, affected, in turn, by the political doctrines of which those states may be the protagonists. It is from this point of view, stripped of all the illusion and make-believe of recent years, that the British Imperial Conference will have to examine the difficult problem of the Commonwealth's continued existence in a world where increasingly formidable and aggressive forces are at play.
For us of the British Empire, the starting point and foundation alike of defense and of foreign policy must always be the maintenance of our sea power. The British Empire is the creature of sea power and sea traffic. Every portion of it, beginning with the British Isles themselves, was settled or conquered from the coast inwards. To quote Rudyard Kipling:
It was the sea that, from our beginnings, directed our imaginings. It was the sea that waited on us the world over, till our imaginings became realities -- till our mud-creeks at home grew to be world-commanding ports, and our remotest landing-places the threshold of nations.
The whole economic life, not only of the United Kingdom, but of every Dominion, of India and of the British Colonies, is dependent upon oversea trade to an extent which it is difficult for Americans, with their substantially self-contained continental economic system, to realize. The closing of the sea routes would mean ruin to every part of the Empire -- except, possibly Canada, which might, at the cost of much difficulty and disorganization, find an alternative outlet for her surplus production in the United States. More serious still, while the command of the sea affords in itself complete security to many parts of the Empire, the loss of that command would preclude all military support from the rest to any one part that was directly threatened by land or air. Maintenance of sea power is, therefore, the only condition upon which the various parts of the Empire can continue to organize their national life upon its present basis of freedom and non-militarism. To maintain it is thus the first task of our defense policy, just as the chief preoccupation of our foreign policy must be to prevent any naval coalition against ourselves which would make that task impossible.
The task has become infinitely more difficult since the Great War. Formerly we had to deal with only one formidable opponent at sea, and, in effect, with only one small area of naval action. All that has been changed by the emergence of new naval power in many quarters of the world. When I refer to the growth of American naval power I need only say that it affects neither our defense nor our foreign policy. We do not contemplate the United States as possible opponents, and we see no menace to ourselves in the growth of the American Navy. The principle of numerical parity, through which we endeavored to give expression to that point of view, has broken down through circumstances outside the control of both of us, but its essential spirit remains. Each of us can henceforward build our own navy to meet our specific needs, without the necessity of bringing the other into the picture. As for our political relations, neither the American nation, with its traditional dislike of external commitments, nor a Commonwealth whose members are not prepared to enter into formal commitments even with each other, will want to base them upon any other footing than that of an increasingly better mutual understanding.
The most formidable potential naval menace to the British Empire is obviously that implied in the development of the Japanese Navy. At present that Navy is not only assured of supremacy in its own home waters (with which no one wants to interfere), but could paralyze the whole of our shipping in the Pacific and even in the Indian Ocean. Only when the Singapore Base is completed, and then only so long as our main battlefleet is free to move rapidly to Singapore from the Mediterranean, will there be real security for that major half of the British Empire which, from South Africa through India and Malaya to Australia and New Zealand, lies in a vast semicircle round the Indian Ocean, or for the vital traffic which crosses that ocean.
But the second of these conditions depends, in its turn, upon our relations to the European naval Powers. There is first of all Italy, possessed not only of a powerful navy, but of a geographical position astride the waist of the Mediterranean which would enable her splendid air force to participate actively in any naval war. There is secondly France, capable of balancing Italy or at any rate of holding the Western Mediterranean. There is lastly Germany. Even if the German Navy is kept down to the 35 percent figure of the recent agreement, that figure, in the event of a conflict, would require the attention of at least half the British Navy, in view both of Germany's strength in the air and of our own greater vulnerability.
Next to the naval problem, and closely linked with it, is the problem of our air defense. That affects, in the first instance, the United Kingdom. The British Navy alone, while it may prevent actual invasion, cannot today prevent a superior enemy air force from paralyzing our efforts by the destruction of our naval dockyards, our aërodromes, our arsenals and munition factories, or from starving us by the bombing of our ports and railway junctions. A home air force equal to any continental air force within striking distance, and an adequate scheme of local anti-aircraft defense for the United Kingdom, is therefore an immediate necessity. But over and above that, Imperial defense will require effective air support to the navy in the Mediterranean and a main overseas air force for the defense and control of the Middle East from Palestine to India and to Singapore.
When it comes to land forces, we must inevitably maintain our standing regular field forces and garrisons in India, Egypt and at our chief naval bases. We need, but have not at present got, an organization which would enable us to reinforce these rapidly, without a general mobilization, in a minor crisis, as well as provide a substantially larger force for serious trouble in the Middle East or in the event of a Russian menace to India. Whether, over and above that, we should attempt to make provision, as in the Great War, for the possible dispatch of an expeditionary force to the Continent and for its subsequent expansion, is a more doubtful proposition. There is much to be said for the view that, without conscription, we could not provide a force that could exercise any decisive influence at the outset, that a future war would certainly never give us the time to repeat the improvisation of the Great War, and that the best help we could give would be through the immediate intervention of our air force. We are in any case compelled to maintain that force on an equality with our strongest neighbor.
Obviously the problem of the defense of the Commonwealth is not easy, especially as the main burden must for many years to come fall upon the United Kingdom. That our people in the old country now understand the gravity of the situation, and are prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to fill the existing gaps in our system of defense, may be taken for granted. Nor can there be much doubt that, as the outcome of the frank discussions which will be held during the Imperial Conference, the other partners in the Commonwealth will begin to take the defense problem more seriously. This does not mean that there is the least likelihood of anything in the nature of a cut-and-dried scheme of common defense emerging from the Conference. All are likely to do more than they have done; but those most directly menaced will naturally do most. Australia, for instance, which is spending over £8,000,000 a year on its defense, and is already an appreciable factor in the naval situation, will no doubt still further develop its naval effort, while at the same time making a start at creating an aircraft industry to render its air force independent in time of war. South Africa is mainly concentrating on the air side of its defense, leaving the naval aspect to the British Navy. All the Dominions, indeed, in view of the natural opportunities which they afford for the development of civil aviation, are likely in the future to contribute more proportionately to the air strength of the Empire than to either its naval or military equipment.
In such a situation foreign policy assumes an anxious importance for the whole Commonwealth. Our cards are not strong enough to enable us to play any but a cautious game. We are too near the centers of disturbance to be able simply to ignore European developments. On the other hand, there would be no sympathy or support from the rest of the Commonwealth if we in Britain pursued a policy which automatically involved us in either the nationalist or the ideological conflicts of Europe. If we are to undertake any commitments, they must be strictly limited to objects which bear directly upon our own security. Of these there is only one that involves a commitment -- namely, the defense of Belgium and France against a direct and unprovoked act of aggression by Germany. To that we are pledged, not only by our treaty obligations, but also by our own immediate defensive interest. This obligation in its turn secures for us, as M. Delbos has recently declared, the immediate and wholehearted support of France if such an unprovoked attack were directed against ourselves, and insures, at the least, the friendly neutrality of France in other contingencies.
On the other hand, the last thing we can afford to do is to drift, either on the plea of trying to resuscitate the League of Nations as an effective instrument for enforcing peace, or on the ground of our "democratic" sympathies, into the position of being committed to a Franco-Russian Alliance. For that would inevitably lead to the consolidation of a corresponding German-Italian-Japanese counter-alliance. After what I have already said about our naval problem it will be clear that a conflict with such a coalition would involve an impossible strain upon our naval resources and expose the whole future of the Commonwealth to disaster. To restore good relations between Italy and ourselves and, consequently, between Italy and France, should therefore be a primary object of Empire policy; and there can be little doubt that the Imperial Conference will heartily endorse the steps recently taken in that direction. Ideologies apart, there is no substantial conflict of interests between Italy and France, still less between Italy and ourselves, and Italy has more to gain from the friendship of the other two great Mediterranean Powers than from being tied to the chariot wheel of German ambitions.
With Germany, too, we have no necessary quarrel. We cannot consent to her overwhelming Belgium or France. Nor can we -- on strategical grounds if on no other -- give way to her clamor for the restoration of her former colonies, founded as it is, in fact, upon a mere desire for prestige and not upon any real economic necessity. On that issue the Dominions more immediately concerned have already given unmistakable expression of their views. Nothing, indeed, could shake the unity of the Empire more seriously than if Britain either proposed the surrender of a Dominion Mandate or herself surrendered Tanganyika, so largely conquered by South African troops and so closely affecting South Africa's security. Students of American colonial history may find a parallel in the effect upon American opinion of our retrocession of Louisburg to the French after its capture by the New Englanders in 1745. On the other hand, there is no reason why we should interfere, on one side or the other, in a quarrel between Germany and Russia. And the same applies to any quarrel that may arise over Northern China or Mongolia between Japan and Russia. If Providence has placed three of the world's most restless and potentially aggressive Powers in juxtaposition, why should the rest of us wish to divert their attention from each other?
To sum up. The foreign policy towards which the British Commonwealth will naturally gravitate is one which while aiming at friendship with all nations will tend to make a particular point of French friendship for the defense of the United Kingdom and its outwork, the Low Countries, and of Italian friendship in the Mediterranean. Such a policy will refuse to be drawn into either camp in any general struggle between "Reds" and "Whites" in Europe, but will, on the contrary, coöperate in every effort that will mitigate European animosities and help to bring about the creation of a self-balanced, peaceful and relatively disarmed European system.
There is much to be said for the view that the only final solution of the European problem is the creation, among the nations west of Russia, of some permanent association or commonwealth. Such a commonwealth would be based on the recognition of the common history, culture and outlook of the nations which were once part of Western Christendom or of the Holy Roman Empire; on the acceptance of existing frontiers; on the toleration of minorities; and on a system of mutual economic preference, including in its scope the colonial possessions of each. Such a solution seems far off today. But the selfsame revolution which is threatening Europe with renewed conflict may well, when its fires have subsided, bring that consummation nearer than now seems possible. If so, then we of the British Commonwealth can well afford to give to such a movement our good will and support, in the belief that an essentially peaceful and self-regarding European Union, occupied with the economic development of its own territories, continental and colonial, need no more be a menace to Britain than the American Union is a menace to Canada.
Let me now return from these speculations to the immediate problems confronting our British Commonwealth. Behind the immediate problems of defense and foreign policy lies the even more fundamental problem of the resources in manpower and economic power upon which they are based. In the long run, the task of defending a world-wide Empire by sea, in the air and on land, against the organized power that may be brought against it from more than one possible quarter, cannot be sustained by some forty million people in a small island anchored off the northwest coast of Europe. It can only be sustained by the developed resources in men, materials and money of all the vast territories whose security and unity are at stake. The question of Imperial economic coöperation is, therefore, an integral part of any consideration of our external problems. But it is more than that. The British Commonwealth is not merely an association for mutual defense. It is above all, as Sir J. Harrington called it in his "Oceana" three centuries ago, "a Commonwealth for increase," an association for promoting the common welfare and prosperity of all its members in times of peace. Such a coöperation, moreover, whether its immediate object be security or wealth, in either case creates the occasions of mutual contact and understanding and the sense of a common interest which are essential if the unity of the Commonwealth is to endure.
In any case, what I have described above as a policy desirable on broader grounds is to a large extent being imposed upon us by the necessities of the world economic situation. One of the natural and probably permanent results of the present world revolution is the immense strengthening of the idea of national economic self-sufficiency or "autarchy." The trend in that direction is profound, created not merely by the desire for military self-sufficiency, but also by the whole conception of the planned and regulated state, responsible for the employment and standard of living of its workers; and it is well-nigh universal. The old promiscuous free trade on which England flourished and under which her colonies grew in the last century, has ceased to be possible. The world's doors are no longer open. For countries so one-sidedly developed, by nature and by the history of their growth, as are the countries of the British Empire, a policy of rigid autarchy would be disastrous. The natural solution for them is the sort of reasonable compromise, as between a large group of essentially complementary countries, which was embodied in the agreements for mutual preference inaugurated by the Ottawa Conference of 1932.
That the Ottawa policy has been a success can hardly be disputed. At a time of exceptional economic depression the enjoyment of sheltered and favored markets in the Empire has been of immense advantage to every one of its members. The percentage of the United Kingdom's imports from Empire countries has gone up from under 29 percent in 1931 to over 40 percent, while the percentage of its exports to Empire countries has gone up from under 44 percent to not quite 49 percent (over 50 percent in manufactured exports). Taking the Ottawa agreement countries alone -- i.e. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Southern Rhodesia and Newfoundland -- imports into the United Kingdom for the first three quarters of 1932 stood at £129,590,000, and for the corresponding nine months of 1936 at £178,657,000, an increase of over £49,000,000, or 38 percent. United Kingdom exports to these countries went up, over the same periods, from £73,851,000 to £107,806,000, an increase of £34,000,000, or nearly 48 percent. That the various treaties will mostly be renewed, and on the whole strengthened, can hardly be doubted.
There are, of course, many difficulties to be adjusted. The industrialist in the Dominions and India naturally demands some measure of protection against British as well as against foreign manufactures. The British farmer cannot face unlimited competition from fellow farmers in the Dominions. There are export markets outside the Empire which are important to one or other of its members. Canada has to consider her market in the United States; Australia her market for wool in Japan and in Germany; Britain her markets in South America and Scandinavia. None of these difficulties are insuperable, or need impose a serious obstacle to the progressive development of the policy of mutual economic coöperation within the Commonwealth.
Nor is that policy likely to be confined to tariffs. When international lending begins to revive, it will be seen, I think, that British finance will give very definite preference to lending for Empire development as against lending for purely financial reasons outside. The question of British shipping, too, is certain to engage increasingly the attention of the governments of the Commonwealth. We may not, at present, go beyond specific limited measures for assistance to tramp shipping, or the building of the giant Cunarders, or such subsidy as may keep the Canadian-Australian service in existence against the competition of the Matson Line. But sooner or later the shipping policy of other nations is likely to force us to some scheme of preferential tariff encouragement of British shipping, or even to go as far as America has done, and make all inter-Empire traffic coastwise traffic and confine it to Empire ships.
Above all, as soon as the present depression and its economic and psychological consequences have worn off, we shall have to begin to face the question of a more rational and effective distribution of the white population of the Commonwealth. The problem of population underlies all other problems affecting the Dominions and their inter-Imperial relations. The British Commonwealth is the product of migration and settlement, and it is only by more migration and closer settlement that it can fulfil its destiny or maintain its existence. The British Dominions today are the most thinly peopled and consequently underdeveloped regions of the world's surface. Canada, with an area of 3,600,000 square miles, has only some 10,000,000 people. The United States next door, with possibly twice the area susceptible of effective economic development, has over 120,000,000. Australia, on 3,000,000 square miles, has less than 7,000,000 people confronting the 70,000,000 of Japan and the 400,000,000 of China. Such a situation cannot make for security. Nor does the present enormous disparity between the population and resources of the United Kingdom and those of the several Dominions make it easier to work a system of coöperation based on equality of status. Coöperation on a footing of equality will be much easier when there is something nearer equality in the contribution which each partner can make, whether in the grant of access to its markets or in the building up of its defensive services. The forthcoming Conference is not likely to see more than the most tentative discussions of the possibility of reviving the flow of migration within the Commonwealth. But in the course of the next few years that question, and the question of the coöperative measures which must be taken to encourage it, may well become a major issue of inter-Imperial policy.
I have said enough to give at any rate an indication of the magnitude of the problems confronting the young British Commonwealth, and of the difficulty and complexity of the tasks which it must accomplish if it is to survive. Those tasks have to be carried out, not under a single direction, but by the free coöperation of entirely independent governments, each of them subject in the last resort only to its own electorate. What machinery is there available to make that coöperation effective? Here we are confronted with one of the greatest weaknesses of the Commonwealth as it exists today. It has discarded the centralized administrative machinery of the old Colonial Office days, and it has not yet created anything adequate to take its place. Its leading statesmen meet in Imperial Conference at irregular intervals, and in between keep more or less in touch by dispatch, telegram or telephone. The representatives of the Commonwealth at Geneva consult among themselves before taking up their attitudes in public. British High Commissioners in the Dominions and Dominion High Commissioners in London exercise the functions of inter-Imperial diplomacy. There are certain inter-Imperial committees, of a purely advisory character, dealing with shipping and marketing, and a valuable inter-Imperial executive organization on a small scale which deals with various scientific aspects of agriculture. But there is no standing machinery of inter-Imperial coöperation, no common clearing house even or secretariat for inter-Imperial correspondence and information.
How is it that the Governments of the British Commonwealth, all of which regularly send their representatives to the frequent fixed sessions of the League of Nations, and contribute large sums to the elaborate secretariat of that institution, without seeing in such action any impairment of their independence, have never yet been prepared to create any comparable organization for the more intimate society of nations which means so much more to them? The answer lies largely in the fact that membership in the Geneva League, while appealing irresistibly to the peace sentiment of the nations of the Commonwealth, has never been regarded as involving any real commitments. On the other hand, an improvement in the machinery of coöperation between the Governments of the Commonwealth might well give a definite direction to that organism's whole constitutional evolution. The matter therefore has naturally been approached with some circumspection, above all during a period when constitutional thought in the Dominions has been concentrated upon emphasizing equality by getting rid of the last vestiges of centralized control. It is only as the last traces of the old anti-Downing Street complex disappear, as the new equality becomes self-evident, that practical necessities will compel the recognition of the need for adequate machinery of Imperial coöperation.
In this and many other respects the members of the British Commonwealth stand today where the American States stood after 1783. They have attained their freedom. They have no intention of separating. They mean to work together. They have not yet made up their minds exactly how to do it. But sooner or later they will discover the appropriate method. If they fail, the Commonwealth will assuredly not long survive the grave perils that threaten it from without or the disintegrating influences which will develop within. But the very magnitude of the danger, and the increasing consciousness, in face of the menace to freedom outside, of the preciousness of their common heritage, will, I believe, teach them how to solve this problem with the rest. They must find their own solution. But their effort is one which, I suggest, deserves the sympathetic understanding of the American public.