I informed Consul Hodgson, who was representing the High Commissioner in his absence, of this, and it was decided to hurry on with the construction and completion of the draft. It was completed in its final shape by General Knox and myself in his train at the Omsk Vatka in front of the Russian Staffka, 9.30 A.M., May 9, 1919.
Much of this Russian “Bill of Rights” had to be pushed down the throats of the Russian official elements. The Supreme Governor never wavered over a single point; his large democratic sympathies were satisfied by his signature to what he hoped would be the foundation of Russian liberty. How fortunate for Russia that she had such a man to call upon in her hour of need! No matter what the final result of his efforts may be, whether success or defeat, his was the mind and personality that enabled this great people to bridge what looked like an impossible gulf and turn their faces to the sun.
How fortunate it was that at this critical hour in Russian history England was represented by Major-General Knox! I had never heard of him till I went to Siberia, yet in him we have a man combining the courage of the soldier with the higher qualities of a statesman, ready made for the special business in hand. The British Empire doubtless, like Topsy, “growed”! It is more an exhibition of race luck than genius. The way in which we occasionally drop the right man in the right place is not an act of Government so much as a stroke of chance. We make awful bloomers in these matters sometimes, but in this case our luck stood by us to some purpose. More than once, when the timidity of the “Politicals” had almost destroyed Russian faith in our honesty of purpose, the robust honesty of his personality turned the scale in our favour. Every Russian trusts him, except those who have forgotten they are Russians. They hate him. That is the real certificate of his worth. I can quite understand the fear of some Labour elements at home that our presence in Siberia may be used by reactionaries to re-establish the old regime. Had I been at home I might have had the same feeling. But I was there, and knew that it was our very presence which made that for the moment impossible. The excesses of the Bolsheviks made the people, both peasant and workman, hanker after the comparative security of the Tsars. The reactionary elements would have been only too pleased to see our backs; our presence was a safeguard against the absolutism for which some of them scheme. The weariness of the peasantry and workmen with revolutionary disorder gave the opportunity to reaction to establish another absolutism which was only restrained by outside influence. Major-General Knox does not write polished dispatches upon army movements under his command, but he perhaps performed greater service to humanity and democracy by his patient and efficient handling on the spot of one of the great world problems.