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CAARLOTTE-JEANNE: A FORGOTTEN EPISODE OF THE FRENCH REVOLU-
TION. By the Hon. Mrs. Bellew
The most striking feature of King Edward's reign lies, no doubt, in the remarkable change which has taken place in Great Britain foreign policy. In consequence of that change the international political position and importance of this country have greatly altered. Foreign statesmen used to think that London lay outside the main currents of international policy. Bismarck declared that England was no longer an active factor in the affairs of continental Europe, and that he left her out of account in his political calculations. His immediate successors and some non-German statesmen showed by their actions that they shared Bismarck's opinion. England was pretty generally thought to be of secondary importance on the chessboard of European diplomacy. The London embassies were sinecures where second-rate diplomats grew grey in attending to routine work.
Since 1901 Great Britain's political influence has mightily increased, and London occupies now a position in the political world comparable with that which Berlin occupied at the time when Bismarck was at the zenith of his power. Since 1901 London has risen from political obscurity to pre-eminence. It has become the meeting place of
VOL, LXIV-No, 377
monarchs, and it is as much the political centre of Europe and the diplomatic capital of the world as it was in the time of Chatham and of Pitt. History, which used to be made at Vienna, at St. Petersburg, or at Constantinople, is now being made at London. The London embassy has become the most important embassy of foreign States.
To the majority of Englishmen international politics are 'foreign affairs.' In the words of Lord Beaconsfield,' the very phrase “ Foreign Affairs ” makes an Englishman convinced that they are subjects with which he has no concern.' Englishmen grow up nourished on party politics, and party politics continue to be their daily bread to the end of their lives. Foreign politics lie out of the beaten track of party politics, and therefore do not attract the general attention which they deserve. Besides, owing to our party system, which brings successful orators and political wire-pullers to the front, and which gives the highest positions in the Government, not to administrative and executive ability, but to debating skill and party influence, our statesmen are, as a rule, eminent party politicians who have neither felt the need nor had the leisure to study foreign affairs with the thoroughness which is required for diplomacy, at the same time the highest of arts and a science of experience. Consequently the equipment of our statesmen for dealing with foreign questions often consists only in a small stock of estimable sentiments and elementary commonplaces which they mistake for the principles of practical statesmanship, and they are apt to treat complicated foreign problems with two or three formulas which they use rather with consistency than with selective discrimination. Frederick the Great wrote in his Memoirs and Napoleon said at St. Helena that Englishmen seemed to lack understanding for the realities of foreign policy. This lack of understanding, which is to be found in most democracies, is still noticeable. Hence the great changes which have taken place in Great Britain's foreign policy and international position during the King's reign have made a far greater impression abroad than in this country. Only a few Englishmen are aware how insecure the position of Great Britain used to be and how greatly it has improved since the foreign policy of inertia and of aimless drift has been changed for that policy which has been crowned by the Reval meeting
Let us cast a retrospective glance at the circumstances which led to the adoption of the policy of ententes ; let us take stock of the achievements of that policy, and let us then review the political situation in Europe and in Asia, and take note of the possibilities and demands of the future.
Up to 1901 Great Britain stood practically alone in the world. Our isolation was rather enforced than voluntary, and as powerful hostile coalitions directed against this country were always possible, and sometimes actually threatening, there was nothing splendid
about our isolation, notwithstanding Lord Goschen's celebrated phrase.
The important Powers on the Continent are divided into two groups: the Triple Alliance and the Dual Alliance. Before Russia's defeat in Asia both groups were generally thought to be equally strong. The balance of power was so nicely adjusted that the risk of war seemed too great to both combinations. Peace was secure on the Continent as long as the Continent was divided into two armed camps of equal strength, and England had no reason to fear continental aggression as long as the two antagonistic combinations were absorbed in watching one another.
Up to 1901 our relations with the Powers of the Dual Alliance were very unsatisfactory. Russia, following her traditional policy in Asia, advanced with sap and mine sometimes from the one side, sometimes from the other, upon our position in India. Great Britain met with more or less disguised Russian opposition, intrigue and hostility in Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Thibet, China, in the Yellow Sea and in the Persian Gulf. Every few years a threatened Russian advance upon India threw the City into a panic. We were in a latent state of war with Russia. Our relations with France were not much better. Largely owing to the skilful policy of a third Power, there was constant friction between France and England in Siam, Egypt, West Africa and Newfoundland, and once or twice we were on the brink of war with that country. The naval forces of France were concentrated in Toulon and Bizerta, and threatened demonstratively Malta and our route to the East via the Suez Canal. Our largest fleet had to be kept in the Mediterranean in constant readiness for war. Under these circumstances it was only natural that the sympathies of Great Britain went towards the Triple Alliance.
Whilst Great Britain was inclined to support the Triple Alliance against the Dual Alliance, the Powers of the Triple Alliance were not by any means inclined reciprocally to support Great Britain against France and Russia. An Anglo-Russian or an Anglo-French war, which would have weakened the Dual Alliance, was evidently advantageous to the three central-European Powers, especially to the leading one, the more so if it was long drawn out and exhaustive to both combatants. Why, then, should they exert themselves in England's favour ? However, not only could Great Britain not rely upon the active support of the Triple Alliance against France and Russia, but she had to reckon with its possible hostility. Numerous attempts were made by Germany to arrive at a working understanding with France and Russia in extra-European affairs, and to merge the two European alliances into a single one for action over sea. France and Russia were assured that French, German, and Russian interests were identical. French and German ships and Russian and German ships were frequently seen side by side. The German Government was unwise enough to explain in the Reichstag in very plain terms that the famous Kruger telegram had been sent in order to ascertain whether, under the pretext of defending the independence of the Transvaal Republic, an anti-British coalition embracing the Powers of the Dual Alliance and of the Triple Alliance might be formed, and that the attempt had failed because France had placed herself on England's side. The joint action of the united French, German and Russian fleets against Japan, which deprived Japan of the fruits of her victory over China, was a practical demonstration of the community of interests and of the solidarity of the two groups of Powers in transmaritime affairs and clearly foreshadowed the possibility of similar co-operation against Great Britain. It is said that another attempt to form a pan-European coalition against Great Britain was made at the time of the South African War, and that the attempt failed in consequence of the personal attitude of the Czar. British statesmen had to reckon with the fact that a better pretext for common action, a change of statesmen in France or Russia, or merely greater skill on the part of the most active Continental statesman, might create a pan-European coalition against Great Britain. The international anti-British press campaign during the South African War had shown that such a coalition would be very popular. Besides, a partition of the British Empire would have been a more tempting enterprise than a partition of Poland. During a number of years Great Britain was constantly threatened with the danger of having to fight in ' splendid isolation ' against the combined naval and military forces of practically all Europe. The British Empire could be attacked in many parts and in unexpected ways. British statesmen had, for instance, to be prepared for an expedition against India in which Russian weight of numbers would be reinforced by German intelligence, thoroughness, and foresight. The position of Great Britain and her Colonies was, owing to our unskilful diplomacy and consequent isolation, one of constant tension and of extreme insecurity. Chance, not the ability of our statesmen, preserved us from a war with all Europe.
Through the conclusion of the Triple Entente with France and Russia these dangers have passed. We need no longer simultaneously look after the defence of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, after the defence of Central Africa, the Mediterranean, and the North Sea. We have been able to concentrate our naval forces in home waters. Our naval budgets would be much heavier were we compelled still to assert our naval supremacy at the same time in the Mediterranean and in the North Sea. Our ententes have enabled us to save many millions on our naval expenditure. They have enabled us to save many more millions on barren Asiatic and African expeditions designed to checkmate the advance of France and Russia. Our ententes have saved to the City and to our industries many millions which might have been lost in political panics, and they have given to our business