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XI MR. HUGHES'S NEW HAVEN SPEECH
 The preceding chapter was written at Algeciras on January 2nd, 1923. On January 3rd there appeared in the Spanish papers a compressed report of the speech delivered by the American Secretary of State, Mr. Hughes, at New Haven. It made suggestions on the subject of reparations which were obviously intended for consideration at the forthcoming Paris conference. I knew the chairman of that conference, M. Poincaré, would not be too anxious to bring these proposals to the notice of his colleagues, but I had some hope that the British, Italian, and Belgian premiers might do so. I therefore cabled the following message to the British and American press:—
 
"I have read with gladness Secretary Hughes's important speech. As far as I can judge from compressed report appearing in the local paper of this remote corner of Spain his suggestions and mine travel in same direction. Earnestly hope Paris[Pg 148] conference will give American proposals priority of consideration. All other expedients will but postpone mischief which will in the end have to be redeemed with compound interest at usurious rates by an embarrassed Europe."
 
I constantly refer to this speech in subsequent articles, and as it has been suggested that the interpretation I placed on it is not borne out by the text, I append the full report which appeared in The Times of December 30th, 1922:—
 
"Mr. Hughes, the Secretary of State, in a speech which he delivered before the American Historical Association at New Haven, Connecticut, to-night lifted yet another corner of the veil which has shrouded the immediate plans of the United States government. Much of his address concerned the Washington conference of 1921, but it ended with a discussion of economic conditions in Europe which are of prime importance.
 
"Mr. Hughes began with the admission that 'we cannot dispose of these problems by calling them European, for they are world problems, and we cannot escape the injurious consequences of failure[Pg 149] to settle them.' They were, however, European problems in the sense that they cannot be solved without the consent of the European governments, and the crux of the situation lay in the settlement of reparations. 'There will be no adjustment of other needs, however pressing, until a definite and accepted basis for the discharge of reparations claims has been fixed. It is futile to attempt to erect any economic structure in Europe until the foundation is laid.'
 
"Then followed a passage referring to the attempts to link up the debts owed to the United States with the question of reparations or with projects of cancellation, attempts which had been steadily resisted. It led up to a discussion of the attitude of the United States towards reparations, 'standing, as it does, a distinct question, and as one which cannot be settled unless the European governments concerned are able to agree.' First came a denial that America desired to see Germany relieved of her responsibility for the war, or of her just obligations, or that America wished that France should lose 'any part of her just claims.' On the other hand, America did not wish to see a prostrate Germany. Some Americans had [Pg 150]suggested that the United States should assume the r?le of arbitrator, but Mr. Hughes did not think 'we should assume such a burden of responsibility.'
 
"From this point the speech deserves quotation in full:
 
"'But the situation,' said Mr. Hughes, 'does call for a settlement upon its merits. The first condition of a satisfactory settlement is that the question should be taken out of politics. Statesmen, have their difficulties, their public opinion, the exigencies they must face. It is devoutly to be hoped that they will effect a settlement among themselves, and that the coming meeting in Paris will find a solution. But if it does not, what should be done?
 
"'The alternative of forcible measures to obtain reparations is not an attractive one. No one can foretell the extent of the serious consequences which might ensue from such a course. Apart from political results, I believe that the opinion of experts is that such measures will not produce reparation payments, but might tend to destroy the basis of those payments, which must be found in economic recuperation. If, however, statesmen cannot agree, and such an alternative is faced, what can be done? Is there not another way out? The fundamental [Pg 151]condition is that in this critical moment the merits of the question as an economic one must alone be regarded. Sentiment, however natural, must be disregarded; mutual recriminations are of no avail; reviews of the past, whether accurate or inaccurate, promise nothing; assertions of blame on the one hand and excuses on the other come to naught.
 
"'There ought to be a way for statesmen to agree upon what Germany can pay, for no matter what claims may be made against her that is the limit of satisfaction. There ought to be a way to determine that limit and to provide a financial plan by which immediate results can be obtained and European nations can feel that the foundations have been laid for their mutual and earnest endeavours to bring about the utmost prosperity to which the industry of their people entitles them.
 
"'If statesmen cannot agree and the exigencies of public opinion make their course difficult, then there should be called to their aid those who can point the way to a solution.
 
"'Why should they not invite men of the highest authority in finance in their respective countries—men of such prestige, experience, and honour that their agreement upon the amount to be paid and[Pg 152] upon the financial plan for working out payments would be accepted throughout the world as the most authoritative expression obtainable? The governments need not bind themselves in advance to accept the recommendations, but they can at least make possible such an inquiry with their approval and free the men who may represent their country in such a commission from any responsibility to foreign offices and from any duty to obey political instructions.
 
"'In other words, they may invite an answer to this difficult question from men of such standing and in such circumstances of freedom as will ensure a reply prompted only by knowledge and conscience. I have no doubt that distinguished Americans would be willing to serve on such a commission. If the governments saw fit to reject the recommendation upon which such a body agreed they would be free to do so, but they would have the advantage of impartial advice and of an enlightened public opinion. The peoples would be informed that the question would be rescued from assertion and counter-assertion and the problem put upon its way to solution.
 
[Pg 153]
 
"'I do not believe that any general conference would answer the purpose better, much less that any political conference would accomplish a result which prime ministers find it impossible to reach. But I do believe that a small group, given proper freedom of action, would be able soon to devise a proper plan. It would be time enough to consider forcible measures after such opportunity had been exhausted.'
 
"Mr. Hughes's closing words were:
 
"'There lies the open broad avenue of opportunity, if those whose voluntary action is indispensable are willing to take advantage of it. And once this is done, the avenues of American helpfulness cannot fail to open hopefully.'"
 
The argument developed by Mr. Hughes in this speech is identical with that upon which I based my appeal in the previous chapter for an impartial investigation into Germany's capacity, and he concludes with a proposal which is in effect identical with mine. He does not state categorically that the American government would be prepared to be officially represented on the commission. But when[Pg 154] he says, "I have no doubt that distinguished Americans would be willing to serve on such a commission," it means that the government would be indirectly represented. The Allied governments would certainly have consulted the government of the U.S.A. as to the American representative nominated to sit on the commission, and no American expert would be appointed without full assurance that he was acceptable to the government of his country.
 
It is a misfortune that such important proposals should have been put forward so timorously that those who wished to ignore them could easily pretend they had never heard them made. Speeches delivered even by Secretaries of State at an academic function in a small provincial town might very well be overlooked in foreign chancelleries, whose postbags bulge with weighty despatches from many lands, without any suggestion of studied neglect. It was clear from Mr. Bonar Law's subsequent attitude in the course of the debate in the House of Commons on the Ruhr invasion that he at any rate had not seen Mr. Hughes's New Haven deliverance. Timid diplomatic flutterings make no impression in a great situation, and so lead to [Pg 155]nothing. This is an excellent example of how not to speak if you wish to be heard, and of how to speak if you have no desire to be heeded.
 
London, July 4th, 1923.


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