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It must be again repeated that in all discussions of agricultural systems it is futile to consider mere quantity of production without also considering methods of organisation and financial results. If the people of the United Kingdom desire such supplies of home-grown food as cannot be produced by economic methods they must be prepared to pay the price in money and in the possible reduction of the variety of their dietary, Millions of acres of land which may be used for agricultural purposes in the Empire are still unsettled or only thinly settled. On such areas the food necessary for the British population might be produced by methods which would yield the agriculturist a good return for his industry without imposing a drain upon public revenue, and by the settlement of those areas the Empire would be strengthened. The Empire may become self-supporting on a healthy economic system, but so far as can be seen the United Kingdom can become self-supporting in the matter of food supplies only at a prohibitive cost.
As regards the other side of the picture, it must be borne in mind that production can still be increased in this country to the advantage both of producer and of consumer by the adoption of sound technical and business methods. The most trenchant criticism of the policy of guaranteed prices yet published is the work of a tenant farmer, and is contained in the separate report of Sir Matthew Wallace on Agricultural Policy. He states :
‘Efficiency is the keynote of the situation, and the means of securing this the State can provide. Instruction and information have not yet reached the man who tills the soil; his desire for knowledge has not even been quickened. Give the farmer education, acquaint him with the reason of things, and you will give him the most wholesome kind of State aid. To some extent this has been done, and where this is the case I am certain that never in the history of British agriculture has there been a period of better farming and greater production.'
With or without guaranteed prices, or other fiscal assistance from the State, the future health and stability of the agricultural industry will depend in a large degree on the adoption of good field-practice, upon the adoption of sound business organisation, and upon the facilities created for the training of intelligent farm managers and workers.
ARTHUR W. ASHBY.
THE DARDANELLES REPORT
THE issue of the report of Lord Cromer's Commission on
1 the Dardanelles has given a great shock to our countrymen, but it marks an epoch in the history of the war and of the British Empire. In the ordinary course of Cabinet Government the culprit usually escapes. At some stage or another of the operations the minister in charge has to fall back on his colleagues, and the aegis of the whole Government is thrown over him. Hence the individual responsibility of a minister is seldom brought home; the popularity of statesmen and the reverse are in consequence more often decided by individual characteristics than by policy. Mr. Asquith's Government, in full confidence, challenged a verdict by granting this enquiry; they have got it with a vengeance. For the first time since the Crimea the fiction that slackness cannot be brought home to persons at headquarters has been exploded.
The present writer was not among those who pressed these enquiries or desired to force any disclosure from the Government which on patriotic grounds might be inopportune. Like most other Englishmen he has always regarded the war as the supreme issue. The Ministry of 1914 had already made large drafts on public confidence, and many felt a doubt as to its composition. But so long as it represented the country, there seemed no alternative between strengthening its hand and striking a deathblow. It is hardly overstating the case to say that, with this report hanging over prominent members of the Ministry of 1914, what occurred last December could only have been postponed till March.
The disposition to attack Lord Cromer and his colleagues for their statement of the case is not creditable. The composition of the Commission was thoroughly impartial, and its chairman had on many subjects a bias strongly in favour of the Ministry.
What most people fail to recollect is the divergence between efficiency as it is understood at the outskirts of the Empire and at the centre. Great Britain has never been better served at 'out-stations' than in the last fifty years. The pulse of the pioneer notoriously beats faster than that of the politician,
and remoteness from Downing Street has only quickened loyalty and self-sacrifice. On the other hand a nation so prosperous as ours, and secure in its insularity, has been inclined to look placidly on the enthusiasts who dreamed in Dreadnoughts, National Service, and Food Supplies. Lord Cromer came home from Egypt ten years ago to find all minds centred on doles and domestic grievances. It is difficult now to realise to what degree questions like Defence, the Declaration of London, and the Bagdad Railway, on which the life of our Empire was to be tried, took a back seat. Indeed, if national spirit were to be weighed by political preoccupations, it was a decadent nation which had to face the crisis of 1914. Lord Cromer has ended his life by a service to the country which will be remembered side by side with his regeneration of Egypt. He has told a plain story with remorseless exactitude, and has exposed shorts comings in official procedure with unrivalled knowledge. But it was no part of his province to go back and ascertain the habit of mind which led to these aberrations. It is proposed briefly to do so here.
Of the twenty years before the outbreak of war, the Unionist party had held power for over ten years and their opponents for nearly nine years at a stretch. Experience shows that after five years a Government loses its 'snap,' and however outwardly formidable is inwardly disjointed. The Boer War caught Lord Salisbury's Government at a time when it had earned rest, and the great resultant strain, aided in 1903 by the Tariff explosion, landed it in the greatest defeat of the century.
The Campbell Bannerman-Asquith Government had a still more formidable trial. For nine years it stood a bombardment, possibly well earned, but certainly never-ceasing. Education, Church, Budget, Liquor, Navy, Ireland, with two General Elections, made each year a long-drawn-out platform and parliamentary struggle. Graver issues were inevitably put aside. Writing on the wall was not wanting, notably in 1911 when France and Germany were on the eve of mobilising, but there is no evidence that the ministers chiefly concerned, Sir Edward Grey and Lord Haldane, took any step to meet the emergency. Lord Salisbury once declined to back a representation to a foreign power urged by a very strong Viceroy with the words, ‘He • always wants me to negotiate as if I had 200,000 men at my
'back, and I have not.' This consideration did not apparently enter into Sir Edward Grey's diplomacy. In 1912, when the Opposition in the House of Lords offered the Government cooperation in any effort they might make to bring our forces up to our commitments—50 grievously strained in 1911–he allowed the project to be snuffed out by Lord Haldane from the Woolsack; and after all the boasting of strength increased by changing Volunteers into Territorials the Munitions Vote for 1913 and 1914 was actually brought down twenty-five per cent. below that of 1905, with the concurrence of Mr. Asquith's special henchman in the Ministry, Mr. McKenna.
Can anyone conceive Lord Palmerston or Lord Salisbury on the top of this unpreparedness continuing, as Sir Edward Grey did in 1914, to support the Home Rule agitation at a moment when, as we now know, the danger of civil war in Ireland was a considerable pawn in Prince Lichnowski's calculations that Great Britain need not be reckoned with ? The only possible defence is that the Government was not merely exhausted but distraught.
It is possible to weigh the want of purpose in Government foreign policy by a single illustration. Lord Kitchener came home from India in 1910 as vigorous as any man of sixty has ever been. He desired greatly to return as Viceroy, but this was not deemed advisable. There were three posts for which he was eminently qualified. He had held supreme commands in Africa and Asia but never in England. He might have been made Chief of the Staff at the War Office and begun the work which afterwards made him the protagonist of the war. The position both at Cairo and Constantinople was such that the Englishman whose prestige was highest in the Near East was marked out for service there if not more imperatively needed elsewhere. The Government gave Lord Kitchener the go-by, and Lord Haldane by the highest pressure forced on him an honorary command at Malta which the Duke of Connaught had just vacated because no soldier of his eminence could waste the public money by holding it. Lord Kitchener's subsequent withdrawal when he knew the facts, and the breakdown of Sir Eldon Gorst, relieved the Government from the obloquy of having shelved at a most critical moment in national history one of the few Englishmen who 'counted’abroad.
The outbreak of war set at rest all animus against the late
Government. They had one great recommendation to the country that there appeared to be no opposition capable of replacing them. The final phases of Mr. Balfour's Government had been inglorious ; Mr. Bonar Law, who replaced him as leader of the Unionist party, had no experience, and was quite at sea in any department except domestic policy. The country for the moment produced no outstanding personality, nor any group of individuals who could carry with them a preponderance of national feeling. On the other hand Sir Edward Grey was much trusted abroad, and the Cabinet, once their mind was made up to fight, showed a very firm front to the enemy.
When the trumpets sounded in 1914 Mr. Asquith and his Government did their best to cut their losses and face the new situation. The appointment of Lord Kitchener to the War Office; the despatch of the Expeditionary Force; the enrolment of the New Army ; the transfer of the Indian Army to France; the immense demands on the country for material and money, were vigorously and promptly made. It is due to Mr. Asquith's Government that we did not figure as another great power has recently done, and that Great Britain took her proper place in Europe, when flagrant breaches of treaty forced her to take a hand in a quarrel in which her interest was remote.
Mr. Asquith also had the foresight to engage the leaders of the Opposition to a party truce which should free the war from all political hindrance. Possibly most of us did not see then as clearly as now that this was not enough. The old cumbrous Cabinet was maintained ; defence measures filtered slowly through the ordinary channels ; departments ran on the 'business as usual' principle. Instead of a few ministers devoting the whole of their energies to the war and sacrifices being demanded from all classes without distinction, the war itself was carried on by an ill-defined War Council, and half the time of ministers was absorbed in making the conditions of a death-struggle palatable to the people who were not engaged in it. Wages must be kept up; employment found ; aliens spared ; amusements encouraged ; recalcitrants cajoled. The Cabinet wasted much time in attempting to spoon-feed 46,000,000 human beings who had been among the most comfortable in the world. Thus to the Nemesis of unprepared