« PreviousContinue »
the view that when once other Powers saw that England was no longer the satellite of Germany, our statesmen would have comparatively little difficulty in doing business with them. After all it was only natural that the French should view us with the deepest suspicion so long as we behaved like secret members of the Triple Alliance, and guarantors of the odious Treaty of Frankfurt. Directly France saw that we had ceased to Germanise, she approached us in a totally different spirit, and with every desire to come to friendly terms. That in a word is the history of the Anglo-French Agreement. Let us hope that its moral may not be forgotten.
The Agreement between the French and British Governments, The Principle which was signed in London on April 8, consists of Mutual of three documents: (1) a Convention COn Cernconcessions. " Newfoundland and West Africa; (2) a Declaration dealing with Egypt and Morocco; (3) a Déclaration Annexe referring to Siam, Madagascar, and the New Hebrides. These papers are lucidly expounded in a copious despatch from Lord Lansdowne, of the same date, to Sir E. Monson, the British Ambassador in Paris. It is in fact a complete survey of the recent difficulties between the two countries, which have now at last been disposed of, but, as the writer is careful to emphasise, the settlement should not be regarded “merely as a series of separate transactions, but as forming part of a comprehensive scheme for the improvement of the international relations of two great countries.” From the international point of view “the cumulative effect of these various transactions can scarcely fail to be highly advantageous. They remove the sources of long-standing differences, the existence of which has been a chronic addition to our diplomatic embarrassments, and a standing menace to an international friendship which we have been at much pains to cultivate, and which we rejoice to think has completely overshadowed the antipathies and suspicions of the past,” and there is the “further reason for mutual congratulation” that “each of the parties has been able, without any material sacrifice of its own national interests, to make to the other concessions regarded, and rightly regarded, by the recipient as of the highest importance.” M. Delcassé, the French Foreign Minister, has spoken in much the same sense to a newspaper interviewer: The first idea of the agreement [said the French Minister for Foreign Affairs] dates back to ten months ago. When I had the honour of accompanying the
President of the Republic to England, the chief of the Foreign Office, the Marquis of Lansdowne, and I were naturally led to examine the general relations between the two countries. To be quite exact, it was on July 7, a day well worthy to be remembered. While talking matters over, we came to an enumera tion of the disputed points existing between our two chanceries. We had to admit that not a single one of them was so essential as to keep up disagreement for an indefinite period. We saw, indeed, that it was easy to solve the still unsettled problems by means of reciprocal concessions and equitable compensation. We then sketched a plan based on the following principles: Wherever France's interest was incontestably superior in any particular question, England was to abate her pretensions. Where, on the other hand, England's interest seemed clearly decisive, France was to consent to the first sacrifice.
In reviewing the negotiations, Lord Lansdowne acknowledges The the part played by public opinion on both sides Sovereign's of the Channel in paying the way for a settlement Rôle and he has evidently little sympathy with the
- constitutional pedants who are nervous lest the Sovereign shall receive the honour which is undoubtedly his due. We have no hesitation in saying, as careful students of this question, that without the courageous initiative of King Edward in paying his respects to France last spring, we should not be now celebrating an Anglo-French understanding. The anti-English sentiment which had been so powerful in France for many years, and which was largely due to the skilful stoking of foreign agencies, of which Berlin and the Vatican were the most active, had by no means spent its force when the announcement was made that King Edward proposed coming to Paris. The first feeling of the average Frenchman was one of sheer surprise, while among responsible statesmen and the more friendly section of the population there was no little anxiety as to the success of the experiment, and it would be no news to hear that serious efforts had been made by pusillanimous counsellors in this country to deter his Majesty from carrying out his intention. Happily they were ignored, and the King, who always rises to emergencies, came to Paris, where he saw and conquered. His charm, tact and evident sincerity made a deep and abiding impression even upon the least friendly elements, and convinced the mass of the French that Great Britain sincerely desired to shake hands and bury the past, while his being a Sovereign as well as a statesman enabled the question to be considered without political prejudices. We cannot conceive what useful purpose is served by the morbid effort to belittle a splendid public service which has led to one of the most remarkable episodes of our time. Though in theory the Crown is sheltered from all criticism, as a matter of fact it is somewhat freely criticised, though not openly, and over and over again the Sovereign has been made the scapegoat for some gaucherie which could not be defended on its merits. The cowardly attempt to make the King responsible for the hateful Venezuelan Mess—which we can now see was a providential episode on the route to an Anglo-French Entente—is a notorious instance in point. Ministerial henchmen sought to silence critics on the ground that it was unfair to attack Ministers for an act agreed upon at Sandringham under the direct auspices of the King. We have always been of opinion that his Majesty had no responsibility whatsoever, direct or indirect, for the Venezuela fiasco. But it is childish, as his name is utilised, however illegitimately, on such occasions, that when he manifestly and in his own person renders a conspicuous service to the British Empire, with which the whole world is ringing, to impose silence upon his Majesty's own subjects.
Lord Lansdowne certainly does not overstate the case when A he speaks of the “powerful impulse which the Anglo-French movement received from the visit
Retrospect. paid to France by his Majesty King Edward VII. in May last, and by the return visit of President Loubet to this country.” The President neither would nor could have come to England unless the King had taken the first step by going to Paris, and but for M. Loubet's visit Ministers would not have enjoyed that personal intercourse with French statesmen which materially contributed to the present settlement. As Lord Lansdowne reminds us, the French President was accompanied by “the distinguished statesman who has so long presided over the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” whose “presence afforded to his Majesty's Government the great advantage of a full and frank exchange of ideas,” which convinced them that a settlement mutually advantageous to both countries was within reach. The Foreign Minister naturally opens his succinct retrospect of the various transactions with— Egypt, “where our occupation ... at first regarded as temporary, has by the force of circumstances become firmly established,” and which, under the guidance of Lord Cromer, had made rapid progress during the last twenty years. But throughout this period the country had been inconvenienced by a financial and administrative system which was a survival of an obsolete order of things, its most striking feature being the international Caisse de la Dette, which, having been originally limited to receiving certain assigned revenues on behalf of the Bondholders, had gradually acquired control as mandatorics of
the European Powers of the whole sphere of Egyptian finance. “Their assent is necessary before any new Loan can be issued. No portion of the general reserve fund can be used without their sanction ; and all assigned revenues are paid directly to them by the collecting departments without passing through the Ministry of Finance.” Similarly the receipts of the railways, telegraphs, and Port of Alexandria, also administered by an International Board, are poured into the lap of the Caisse. Side by side, though not on all fours, with our difficult position in Egypt may be placed the unsatisfactory and dangerous condition of Morocco, where life and property are unsafe, the national resources of the country undeveloped, and trade hampered by the political situation, and, “without the intervention of a strong and civilised Power, there appears to be no probability of a real improvement in the condition of the country.” Lord Lansdowne recognises that it is not unnatural that France should regard it as “falling to her lot to assume the task of attempting the regeneration of that country.” Her Algerian frontier marches with that of Morocco for several hundred miles, and she has been compelled at intervals to undertake arduous and costly military operations in order to quell border disturbances provoked by tribes nominally subject to the Sultan. French trade with Morocco is also of considerable importance, and “compares not unfavourably with our own.” In these circumstances, although she has no desire to annex the Sultan's dominions or to subvert his authority, France wishes to extend her influence in Morocco, “and is ready to submit to sacrifices and to incur responsibilities with the object of putting an end to the condition of anarchy which prevails upon the borders of Algeria.”
As France desires to Egyptianise Morocco while Great Britain has no such ambition, we have no difficulty in admitting “that if any European Power is to have a predominant influence in Morocco, that Power is France.” Here then are all the materials for a deal. In meeting French wishes we have safeguarded our own interests, which are commercial and strategical. As regards commerce we have secured equality of treatment for British subjects with French subjects for thirty years, while our strategic position is safeguarded by Article VII. of the “Declaration regarding Egypt and Morocco,” which runs as follows: “In order to ensure the free passage of the Straits of Gibraltar, both Governments agree not to allow fortifications or any strategic works to be erected on
that part of the Moorish coast between Melilla and the heights which dominate the right bank of the Sebu exclusively.” In return for our good-will in Morocco, of which the French Government declares that “it has not the intention of changing the political state,” the Government of the French Republic declares that in Egypt “it will not impede the action of England in this country by demanding that a term should be fixed for the British occupation or in any other way, and that it gives its adhesion to the draft of the Khedivial decree . . . which contains the guarantees considered necessary for the safeguarding of the interests of the holders of the Egyptian debt”; this, as Lord Lansdowne explains, “will, if it be accepted by the other Powers concerned, have the effect of giving to the Egyptian Government a free hand in the disposal of its own resources so long as the punctual payment of interest on the debt is assured.” In other words, the Caisse de la Dette will revert to its original position, will be confined to its proper functions, and will cease to act as a perpetual irritant in the delicate organism of Egyptian administration. It is also agreed between the two Powers that French trade shall enjoy the same equality in Egypt as British trade in Morocco—a somewhat unfortunate provision if it excludes Egypt from the advantage of the preferential principle for the next thirty years. Great Britain formally recognises the neutrality of the Suez Canal in time of war, and agrees that French schools shall continue to enjoy their present liberty in Egypt, and that the general direction of Egyptian antiquities shall remain in the hands of a French savant. Article IX., which is of the first importance, runs as follows: “The two Governments (i.e., France and Great Britain) agree to lend each other the support of their diplomacy for the execution of the clauses of the present declaration relative to Egypt and Morocco.” There is also a somewhat cryptic reference to the interests of Spain, to whom both Powers profess sincere attachment, France undertaking to come to an understanding with Madrid which is subsequently to be communicated to the British Government. Some further announcement is anticipated as regards the position of Spain, where public opinion is said to resent the Anglo-French Settlement.
The Newfoundland problem owes its existence to the loose drafting of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and to Newfoundland. the bungling diplomacy of succeeding generations. Clause XIII. of that Treaty recognised that the island of Newfoundland should thenceforth belong wholly to Great Britain,