Sec.2. The Aims of British Statesmanship.—Mr. Asquith on September 19 defined as follows the three main aims of British statesmanship in entering upon war: “(1) To vindicate the sanctity of treaty obligations and what is properly called the public law of Europe, (2) to assert and to enforce the independence of free States, relatively small and weak, against the encroachments and the violence of the strong, and (3) to withstand, as we believe in the best interests not only of our own Empire, but of civilisation at large, the arrogant claim of a single Power to dominate the development of the destinies of Europe.” In speaking thus, Mr. Asquith had no intention of placing Britain upon a moral pedestal or of suggesting that we have ever enjoyed a monopoly of political right dealing. Every nation has blots upon its scutcheon; and the cynic may point to the Irish Union, the destruction of the Danish fleet, the Cyprus Convention, as proofs that we have richly earned the name of “Perfidious Albion.” Let us forego the patriotic retort which would fling in Prussia’s teeth such incidents as the conquest of Silesia, the partition of Poland, the Ems telegram, the seizure of Kiaochau. But let us, while admitting our shortcomings in the past, nail our colours to the mast and insist that this war shall never degenerate into one of mere revenge or aggrandisement, that the fate of the nations of Europe shall be decided, so far as possible, in accordance with their own aspirations rather than the territorial ambitions of dynasties or racial cliques.
Is it, then, possible, when considering the lines of settlement, to lay down any general principles? The Europe which we have known has gone beyond recall; the new Europe which is coming to birth will be scarcely recognisable to those who have known its predecessor. Its political, racial, social, economic outlook will be radically changed. Let us then meet fate halfway and admit boldly that we want a new Europe. But let us bear in mind the fiery process by which a huge bell is forged and the fate which befell the impatient apprentice who opened the furnace doors too soon. The Prussian leaders, to whom war is an ideal and a programme, are entitled, if fortune should desert them, to manoeuvre for a “draw”;