The Anglo-American Establishment
PrefaceThe Rhodes Scholarships, established by the terms of Cecil Rhodes’s seventh will, are known to everyone. What is not so widely known is that Rhodes in five previous wills left his fortune to form a secret society, which was to devote itself to the preservation and expansion of the British Empire. And what does not seem to be known to anyone is that this secret society was created by Rhodes and his principal trustee, Lord Milner, and continues to exist to this day. To be sure, this secret society is not a childish thing like the Ku Klux Klan, and it does not have any secret robes, secret handclasps, or secret passwords. It does not need any of these, since its members know each other intimately. It probably has no oaths of secrecy nor any formal procedure of initiation. It does, however, exist and holds secret meetings, over which the senior member present presides. At various times since 1891, these meetings have been presided over by Rhodes, Lord Milner, Lord Selborne, Sir Patrick Duncan, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Lord Lothian, and Lord Brand. They have been held in all the British Dominions, starting in South Africa about 1903; in various places in London, chiefly 175 Piccadilly; at various colleges at Oxford, chiefly All Souls; and at many English country houses such as Tring Park, Blickling Hall, Cliveden, and others.
This society has been known at various times as Milner’s Kindergarten, as the Round Table Group, as the Rhodes crowd, as The Times crowd, as the All Souls group, and as the Cliveden set. All of these terms are unsatisfactory, for one reason or another, and I have chosen to call it the Milner Group. Those persons who have used the other terms, or heard them used, have not generally been aware that all these various terms referred to the same Group.
It is not easy for an outsider to write the history of a secret group of this kind, but, since no insider is going to do it, an outsider must attempt it. It should be done, for this Group is, as I shall show, one of the most important historical facts of the twentieth century. Indeed, the Group is of such significance that evidence of its existence is not hard to find, if one knows where to look. This evidence I have sought to point out without overly burdening this volume with footnotes and bibliographical references. While such evidences of scholarship are kept at a minimum, I believe I have given the source of every fact which I mention. Some of these facts came to me from sources which I am not permitted to name, and I have mentioned them only where I can produce documentary evidence available to everyone. Nevertheless, it would have been very difficult to write this book if I had not received a certain amount of assistance of a personal nature from persons close to the Group. For obvious reasons, I cannot reveal the names of such persons, so I have not made reference to any information derived from them unless it was information readily available from other sources.
Naturally, it is not possible for an outsider to write about a secret group without falling into errors. There are undoubtedly errors in what follows. I have tried to keep these at a minimum by keeping the interpretation at a minimum and allowing the facts to speak for themselves. This will serve as an excuse for the somewhat excessive use of quotations. I feel that there is no doubt at all about my general interpretation. I also feel that there are few misstatements of fact, except in one most difficult matter. This difficulty arises from the problem of knowing just who is and who is not a member of the Group. Since membership may not be a formal matter but based rather on frequent social association, and since the frequency of such association varies from time to time and from person to person, it is not always easy to say who is in the Group and who is not. I have tried to solve this difficulty by dividing the Group into two concentric circles: an inner core of intimate associates, who unquestionably knew that they were members of a group devoted to a common purpose; and an outer circle of a larger number, on whom the inner circle acted by personal persuasion, patronage distribution, and social pressure. It is probable that most members of the outer circle were not conscious that they were being used by a secret society. More likely they knew it, but, English fashion, felt it discreet to ask no questions. The ability of Englishmen of this class and background to leave the obvious unstated, except perhaps in obituaries, is puzzling and sometimes irritating to an outsider. In general, I have undoubtedly made mistakes in my lists of members, but the mistakes, such as they are, are to be found rather in my attribution of any particular person to the outer circle instead of the inner core, rather than in my connecting him to the Group at all. In general, I have attributed no one to the inner core for whom I do not have evidence, convincing to me, that he attended the secret meetings of the Group. As a result, several persons whom I place in the outer circle, such as Lord Halifax, should probably be placed in the inner core.
I should say a few words about my general attitude toward this subject. I approached the subject as a historian. This attitude I have kept. I have tried to describe or to analyze, not to praise or to condemn. I hope that in the book itself this attitude is maintained. Of course I have an attitude, and it would be only fair to state it here. In general, I agree with the goals and aims of the Milner Group. I feel that the British way of life and the British Commonwealth of Nations are among the great achievements of all history. I feel that the destruction of either of them would be a terrible disaster to mankind. I feel that the withdrawal of Ireland, of Burma, of India, or of Palestine from the Commonwealth is regrettable and attributable to the fact that the persons in control of these areas failed to absorb the British way of life while they were parts of the Commonwealth. I suppose, in the long view, my attitude would not be far different from that of the members of the Milner Group. But, agreeing with the Group on goals, I cannot agree with them on methods. To be sure, I realize that some of their methods were based on nothing but good intentions and high ideals—higher ideals than mine, perhaps. But their lack of perspective in critical moments, their failure to use intelligence and common sense, their tendency to fall back on standardized social reactions and verbal cliches in a crisis, their tendency to place power and influence into hands chosen by friendship rather than merit, their oblivion to the consequences of their actions, their ignorance of the point of view of persons in other countries or of persons in other classes in their own country—these things, it seems to me, have brought many of the things which they and I hold dear close to disaster. In this Group were persons like Esher, Grey, Milner, Hankey, and Zimmern, who must command the admiration and affection of all who know of them. On the other hand, in this Group were persons whose lives have been a disaster to our way of life. Unfortunately, in the long run, both in the Group and in the world, the influence of the latter kind has been stronger than the influence of the former.
This has been my personal attitude. Little of it, I hope, has penetrated to the pages which follow. I have been told that the story I relate here would be better left untold, since it would provide ammunition for the enemies of what I admire. I do not share this view. The last thing I should wish is that anything I write could be used by the Anglophobes and isolationists of the Chicago Tribune. But I feel that the truth has a right to be told, and, once told, can be an injury to no men of good will. Only by a knowledge of the errors of the past is it possible to correct the tactics of the future.
One Wintry Afternoon in February 1891, three men were engaged in earnest conversation in London. From that conversation were to flow consequences of the greatest importance to the British Empire and to the world as a whole. For these men were organizing a secret society that was, for more than fifty years, to be one of the most important forces in the formulation and execution of British imperial and foreign policy.
The three men who were thus engaged were already well known in England. The leader was Cecil Rhodes, fabulously wealthy empire-builder and the most important person in South Africa. The second was William T. Stead, the most famous, and probably also the most sensational, journalist of the day. The third was Reginald Baliol Brett, later known as Lord Esher, friend and confidant of Queen Victoria, and later to be the most influential adviser of King Edward VII and King George V.
The details of this important conversation will be examined later. At present we need only point out that the three drew up a plan of organization for their secret society and a list of original members. The plan of organization provided for an inner circle, to be known as "The Society of the Elect," and an outer circle, to be known as "The Association of Helpers." Within The Society of the Elect, the real power was to be exercised by the leader, and a "Junta of Three." The leader was to be Rhodes, and the junta was to be Stead, Brett, and Alfred Milner. In accordance with this decision, Milner was added to the society by Stead shortly after the meeting we have described.
The creation of this secret society was not a matter of a moment. As we shall see, Rhodes had been planning for this event for more than seventeen years. Stead had been introduced to the plan on 4 April 1889, and Brett had been told of it on 3 February 1890. Nor was the society thus founded an ephemeral thing, for, in modified form, it exists to this day. From 1891 to 1902, it was known to only a score of persons. During this period, Rhodes was leader, and Stead was the most influential member. From 1902 to 1925, Milner was leader, while Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian) and Lionel Curtis were probably the most important members. From 1925 to 1940, Kerr was leader, and since his death in 1940 this role has probably been played by Robert Henry Brand (now Lord Brand).
During this period of almost sixty years, this society has been called by various names. During the first decade or so it was called "the secret society of Cecil Rhodes" or "the dream of Cecil Rhodes." In the second and third decades of its existence it was known as "Milner’s Kindergarten" (1901-1910) and as "the Round Table Group" (1910-1920). Since 1920 it has been called by various names, depending on which phase of its activities was being examined. It has been called "The Times crowd," "the Rhodes crowd," the "Chatham House crowd," the "All Souls group," and the "Cliveden set." All of these terms were more or less inadequate, because they focused attention on only part of the society or on only one of its activities. The Milner Kindergarten and the Round Table Group, for example, were two different names for The Association of Helpers and were thus only part of the society, since the real center of the organization, The Society of the Elect, continued to exist and recruited new members from the outer circle as seemed necessary. Since 1920, this Group has been increasingly dominated by the associates of Viscount Astor. In the 1930s, the misnamed "Cliveden set" was close to the center of the society, but it would be entirely unfair to believe that the connotations of superficiality and conspiracy popularly associated with the expression "Cliveden set" are a just description of the Milner Group as a whole. In fact, Viscount Astor was, relatively speaking, a late addition to the society, and the society should rather be pictured as utilizing the Astor money to further their own ideals rather than as being used for any purpose by the master of Cliveden.
Even the expression "Rhodes secret society," which would be perfectly accurate in reference to the period 1891-1899, would hardly be accurate for the period after 1899. The organization was so modified and so expanded by Milner after the eclipse of Stead in 1899, and especially after the death of Rhodes in 1902, that it took on quite a different organization and character, although it continued to pursue the same goals. To avoid this difficulty, we shall generally call the organization the "Rhodes secret society" before 1901 and "the Milner Group" after this date, but it must be understood that both terms refer to the same organization.
This organization has been able to conceal its existence quite successfully, and many of its most influential members, satisfied to possess the reality rather than the appearance of power, are unknown even to close students of British history. This is the more surprising when we learn that one of the chief methods by which this Group works has been through propaganda. It plotted the Jameson Raid of 1895; it caused the Boer War of 1899-1902; it set up and controls the Rhodes Trust; it created the Union of South Africa in 1906-1910; it established the South African periodical The State in 1908; it founded the British Empire periodical The Round Table in 1910, and this remains the mouthpiece of the Group; it has been the most powerful single influence in All Souls, Balliol, and New Colleges at Oxford for more than a generation; it has controlled The Times for more than fifty years, with the exception of the three years 1919-1922; it publicized the idea of and the name "British Commonwealth of Nations" in the period 1908-1918; it was the chief influence in Lloyd George’s war administration in 1917-1919 and dominated the British delegation to the Peace Conference of 1919; it had a great deal to do with the formation and management of the League of Nations and of the system of mandates; it founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 1919 and still controls it; it was one of the chief influences on British policy toward Ireland, Palestine, and India in the period 1917-1945; it was a very important influence on the policy of appeasement of Germany during the years 1920-1940; and it controlled and still controls, to a very considerable extent, the sources and the writing of the history of British Imperial and foreign policy since the Boer War.
It would be expected that a Group which could number among its achievements such accomplishments as these would be a familiar subject for discussion among students of history and public affairs. In this case, the expectation is not realized, partly because of the deliberate policy of secrecy which this Group has adopted, partly because the Group itself is not closely integrated but rather appears as a series of overlapping circles or rings partly concealed by being hidden behind formally organized groups of no obvious political significance.
This Group, held together, as it is, by the tenuous links of friendship, personal association, and common ideals is so indefinite in its outlines (especially in recent years) that it is not always possible to say who is a member and who is not. Indeed, there is no sharp line of demarkation between those who are members and those who are not, since "membership" is possessed in varying degrees, and the degree changes at different times. Sir Alfred Zimmern, for example, while always close to the Group, was in its inner circle only for a brief period in 1910-1922, thereafter slowly drifting away into the outer orbits of the Group. Lord Halifax, on the other hand, while close to it from 1903, did not really become a member until after 1920. Viscount Astor, also close to the Group from its first beginnings (and much closer than Halifax), moved rapidly to the center of the Group after 1916, and especially after 1922, and in later years became increasingly a decisive voice in the Group.
Although the membership of the Milner Group has slowly shifted with the passing years, the Group still reflects the characteristics of its chief leader and, through him, the ideological orientation of Balliol in the 1870s. Although the Group did not actually come into existence until 1891, its history covers a much longer period, since its origins go back to about 1873. This history can be divided into four periods, of which the first, from 1873 to 1891, could be called the preparatory period and centers about the figures of W.T. Stead and Alfred Milner. The second period, from 1891 to 1901, could be called the Rhodes period, although Stead was the chief figure for most of it. The third period, from 1901 to 1922, could be called the New College period and centers about Alfred Milner. The fourth period, from about 1922 to the present, could be called the All Souls period and centers about Lord Lothian, Lord Brand, and Lionel Curtis. During these four periods, the Group grew steadily in power and influence, until about 1939. It was badly split on the policy of appeasement after 16 March 1939, and received a rude jolt from the General Election of 1945. Until 1939, however, the expansion in power of the Group was fairly consistent. This growth was based on the possession by its members of ability, social connections, and wealth. It is not possible to distinguish the relationship of these three qualities—a not uncommon situation in England.
Milner was able to dominate this Group because he became the focus or rather the intersection point of three influences. These we shall call "the Toynbee group," "the Cecil Bloc," and the "Rhodes secret society." The Toynbee group was a group of political intellectuals formed at Balliol about 1873 and dominated by Arnold Toynbee and Milner himself. It was really the group of Milner’s personal friends. The Cecil Bloc was a nexus of political and social power formed by Lord Salisbury and extending from the great sphere of politics into the fields of education and publicity. In the field of education, its influence was chiefly visible at Eton and Harrow and at All Souls College, Oxford. In the field of publicity, its influence was chiefly visible in The Quarterly Review and The Times. The "Rhodes secret society" was a group of imperial federalists, formed in the period after 1889 and using the economic resources of South Africa to extend and perpetuate the British Empire.
It is doubtful if Milner could have formed his Group without assistance from all three of these sources. The Toynbee group gave him the ideology and the personal loyalties which he needed; the Cecil Bloc gave him the political influence without which his ideas could easily have died in the seed; and the Rhodes secret society gave him the economic resources which made it possible for him to create his own group independent of the Cecil Bloc. By 1902, when the leadership of the Cecil Bloc had fallen from the masterful grasp of Lord Salisbury into the rather indifferent hands of Arthur Balfour, and Rhodes had died, leaving Milner as the chief controller of his vast estate, the Milner Group was already established and had a most hopeful future. The long period of Liberal government which began in 1906 cast a temporary cloud over that future, but by 1916 the Milner Group had made its entrance into the citadel of political power and for the next twenty-three years steadily extended its influence until, by 1938, it was the most potent political force in Britain.
The original members of the Milner Group came from well-to-do, upper-class, frequently titled families. At Oxford they demonstrated intellectual ability and laid the basis for the Group. In later years they added to their titles and financial resources, obtaining these partly by inheritance and partly by ability to tap new sources of titles and money. At first their family fortunes may have been adequate to their ambitions, but in time these were supplemented by access to the funds in the foundation of All Souls, the Rhodes Trust and the Beit Trust, the fortune of Sir Abe Bailey, the Astor fortune, certain powerful British banks (of which the chief was Lazard Brothers and Company), and, in recent years, the Nuffield money.
Although the outlines of the Milner Group existed long before 1891, the Group did not take full form until after that date. Earlier, Milner and Stead had become part of a group of neo-imperialists who justified the British Empire’s existence on moral rather than on economic or political grounds and who sought to make this justification a reality by advocating self-government and federation within the Empire. This group formed at Oxford in the early 1870s and was extended in the early 1880s. At Balliol it included Milner, Arnold Toynbee, Thomas Raleigh, Michael Glazebrook, Philip Lyttelton Gell, and George R. Parkin. Toynbee was Milner’s closest friend. After his early death in 1883, Milner was active in establishing Toynbee Hall, a settlement house in London, in his memory. Milner was chairman of the governing board of this establishment from 1911 to his death in 1925. In 1931 plaques to both Toynbee and Milner were unveiled there by members of the Milner Group. In 1894 Milner delivered a eulogy of his dead friend at Toynbee Hall, and published it the next year as Arnold Toynbee: A Reminiscence. He also wrote the sketch of Toynbee in the Dictionary of National Biography. The connection is important because it undoubtedly gave Toynbee’s nephew, Arnold J. Toynbee, his entree into government service in 1915 and into the Royal Institute of International Affairs after the war.
George R. Parkin (later Sir George, 1846-1922) was a Canadian who spent only one year in England before 1889. But during that year (1873-1874) he was a member of Milner’s circle at Balliol and became known as a fanatical supporter of imperial federation. As a result of this, he became a charter member of the Canadian branch of the Imperial Federation League in 1885 and was sent, four years later, to New Zealand and Australia by the League to try to build up imperial sentiment. On his return, he toured around England, giving speeches to the same purpose. This brought him into close contact with the Cecil Bloc, especially George E. Buckle of The Times, G.W. Prothero, J.R. Seeley, Lord Rosebery, Sir Thomas (later Lord) Brassey, and Milner. For Buckle, and in support of the Canadian Pacific Railway, he made a survey of the resources and problems of Canada in 1892. This was published by Macmillan under the title The Great Dominion the following year. On a subsidy from Brassey and Rosebery he wrote and published his best-known book, Imperial Federation, in 1892. This kind of work as a propagandist for the Cecil Bloc did not provide a very adequate living, so on 24 April 1893 Milner offered to form a group of imperialists who would finance this work of Parkin’s on a more stable basis. Accordingly, Parkin, Milner, and Brassey, on 1 June 1893, signed a contract by which Parkin was to be paid £450 a year for three years. During this period he was to propagandize as he saw fit for imperial solidarity. As a result of this agreement, Parkin began a steady correspondence with Milner, which continued for the rest of his life.
When the Imperial Federation League dissolved in 1894, Parkin became one of a group of propagandists known as the "Seeley lecturers" after Professor J.R. Seeley of Cambridge University, a famous imperialist. Parkin still found his income insufficient, however, although it was being supplemented from various sources, chiefly The Times. In 1894 he went to the Colonial Conference at Ottawa as special correspondent of The Times. The following year, when he was offered the position of Principal of Upper Canada College, Toronto, he consulted with Buckle and Moberly Bell, the editors of The Times, hoping to get a full-time position on The Times. There was none vacant, so he accepted the academic post in Toronto, combining with it the position of Canadian correspondent of The Times. This relationship with The Times continued even after he became organizing secretary of the Rhodes Trust in 1902. In 1908, for example, he was The Times’s correspondent at the Quebec tercentenary celebration. Later, in behalf of The Times and with the permission of Marconi, he sent the first press dispatch ever transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean by radio.
In 1902, Parkin became the first secretary of the Rhodes Trust, and he assisted Milner in the next twenty years in setting up the methods by which the Rhodes Scholars would be chosen. To this day, more than a quarter-century after his death, his influence is still potent in the Milner Group in Canada. His son-in-law, Vincent Massey, and his namesake, George Parkin de T. Glazebrook, are the leaders of the Milner Group in the Dominion.
Another member of this Balliol group of 1875 was Thomas Raleigh (later Sir Thomas, 1850-1922), close friend of Parkin and Milner, Fellow of All Souls (1876-1922), later registrar of the Privy Council (18961899), legal member of the Council of the Viceroy of India (1899-1904), and member of the Council of India in London (1909-1913). Raleigh’s friendship with Milner was not based only on association at Balliol, for he had lived in Milner’s house in Tubingen, Germany, when they were both studying there before 1868.
Another student, who stayed only briefly at Balliol but remained as Milner’s intimate friend for the rest of his life, was Philip Lyttelton Gell (1852-1926). Gell was a close friend of Milner’s mother’s family and had been with Milner at King’s College, London, before they both came up to Balliol. In fact, it is extremely likely that it was because of Gell, two years his senior, that Milner transferred to Balliol from London. Gell was made first chairman of Toynbee Hall by Milner when it was opened in 1884, and held that post for twelve years. He was still chairman of it when Milner delivered his eulogy of Toynbee there in 1894. In 1899 Milner made Gell a director of the British South Africa Company, a position he held for twenty-six years (three of them as president).
Another intimate friend, with whom Milner spent most of his college vacations, was Michael Glazebrook (1853-1926). Glazebrook was the heir of Toynbee in the religious field, as Milner was in the political field. He became Headmaster of Clifton College (1891-1905) and Canon of Ely (1905-1926) and frequently got into conflict with his ecclesiastical superiors because of his liberal views. This occurred in its most acute form after his publication of The Faith of a Modern Churchman in 1918. His younger brother, Arthur James Glazebrook, was the founder and chief leader of the Canadian branch of the Milner Group until succeeded by Massey about 1935.
While Milner was at Balliol, Cecil Rhodes was at Oriel, George E. Buckle was at New College, and H.E. Egerton was at Corpus. It is not clear if Milner knew these young men at the time, but all three played roles in the Milner Group later. Among his contemporaries at Balliol itself, we should list nine names, six of whom were later Fellows of All Souls : H.H. Asquith, St. John Brodrick, Charles Firth, W.P. Ker, Charles Lucas, Robert Mowbray, Rowland E. Prothero, A.L. Smith, and Charles A. Whitmore. Six of these later received titles from a grateful government, and all of them enter into any history of the Milner Group.
In Milner’s own little circle at Balliol, the dominant position was held by Toynbee. In spite of his early death in 1883, Toynbee’s ideas and outlook continue to influence the Milner Group to the present day. As Milner said in 1894, "There are many men now active in public life, and some whose best work is probably yet to come, who are simply working out ideas inspired by him." As to Toynbee’s influence on Milner himself, the latter, speaking of his first meeting with Toynbee in 1873, said twenty-one years later, "I feel at once under his spell and have always remained under it." No one who is ignorant of the existence of the Milner Group can possibly see the truth of these quotations, and, as a result, the thousands of persons who have read these statements in the introduction to Toynbee’s famous Lectures on the Industrial Revolution have been vaguely puzzled by Milner’s insistence on the importance of a man who died at such an early age and so long ago. Most readers have merely dismissed the statements as sentimentality inspired by personal attachment, although it should be clear that Alfred Milner was about the last person in the world to display sentimentality or even sentiment.
Among the ideas of Toynbee which influenced the Milner Group we should mention three: (a) a conviction that the history of the British Empire represents the unfolding of a great moral idea—the idea of freedom — and that the unity of the Empire could best be preserved by the cement of this idea; (b) a conviction that the first call on the attention of any man should be a sense of duty and obligation to serve the state; and (c) a feeling of the necessity to do social service work (especially educational work) among the working classes of English society. These ideas were accepted by most of the men whose names we have already mentioned and became dominant principles of the Milner Group later. Toynbee can also be regarded as the founder of the method used by the Group later, especially in the Round Table Groups and in the Royal Institute of International Affairs. As described by Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol, in his preface to the 1884 edition of Toynbee’s Lectures on the Industrial Revolution, this method was as follows : "He would gather his friends around him; they would form an organization; they would work on quietly for a time, some at Oxford, some in London; they would prepare themselves in different parts of the subject until they were ready to strike in public." In a prefatory note to this same edition, Toynbee’s widow wrote: "The whole has been revised by the friend who shared my husband’s entire intellectual life, Mr. Alfred Milner, without whose help the volume would have been far more imperfect than it is, but whose friendship was too close and tender to allow now of a word of thanks." After Milner published his Reminiscence of Arnold Toynbee, it was reprinted in subsequent editions of the Industrial Revolution as a memoir, replacing Jowett’s.
After leaving Oxford in 1877, Milner studied law for several years but continued to remain in close contact with his friends, through a club organized by Toynbee. This group, which met at the Temple in London as well as at Oxford, worked closely with the famous social reformer and curate of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, Samuel A. Barnett. The group lectured to working-class audiences in Whitechapel, Milner ;giving a course of speeches on "The State and the Duties of Rulers" in 1880 and another on "Socialism" in 1882. The latter series was published in the National Review in 1931 by Lady Milner.
In this group of Toynbee’s was Albert Grey (later Earl Grey, 1851-1917), who became an ardent advocate of imperial federation. Later a loyal supporter of Milner’s, as we shall see, he remained a member of the Milner Group until his death. Another member of the group, Ernest Iwan-Muller, had been at King’s College, London, with Milner and Gell, and at New College while Milner was at Balliol. A close friend of Milner’s, he became a journalist, was with Milner in South Africa during the Boer War, and wrote a valuable work on this experience called Lord Milner in South Africa (1903). Milner reciprocated by writing his sketch in the Dictionary of National Biography when he died in 1910.
At the end of 1881 Milner determined to abandon the law and devote himself to work of more social benefit. On 16 December he wrote in his diary: "One cannot have everything. I am a poor man and must choose between public usefulness and private happiness. I choose the former, or rather, I choose to strive for it."
The opportunity to carry out this purpose came to him through his social work with Barnett, for it was by this connection that he met George J. (later Lord) Goschen, Member of Parliament and director of the Bank of England, who in the space of three years (1880-1883) refused the posts of Viceroy of India, Secretary of State for War, and Speaker of the House of Commons. Goschen became, as we shall see, one of the instruments by which Milner obtained political influence. For one year (1884-1885) Milner served as Goschen’s private secretary, leaving the post only because he stood for Parliament himself in 1885.
It was probably as a result of Goschen’s influence that Milner entered journalism, beginning to write for the Pall Mall Gazette in 1881. On this paper he established a number of personal relationships of later significance. At the time, the editor was John Morley, with William T. Stead as assistant. Stead was assistant editor in 1880-1883, and editor in 1883-1890. In the last year, he founded The Review of Reviews. An ardent imperialist, at the same time that he was a violent reformer in domestic matters, he was "one of the strongest champions in England of Cecil Rhodes." He introduced Albert Grey to Rhodes and, as a result, Grey became one of the original directors of the British South Africa Company when it was established by royal charter in 1889. Grey became administrator of Rhodesia when Dr. Jameson was forced to resign from that post in 1896 as an aftermath of his famous raid into the Transvaal. He was Governor-General of Canada in 1904-1911 and unveiled the Rhodes Memorial in South Africa in 1912. A Liberal member of the House of Commons from 1880 to 1886, he was defeated as a Unionist in the latter year. In 1894 he entered the House of Lords as the fourth Earl Grey, having inherited the title and 17,600 acres from an uncle. Throughout this period he was close to Milner and later was very useful in providing practical experience for various members of the Milner Group. His son, the future fifth Earl Grey, married the daughter of the second Earl of Selborne, a member of the Milner Group.
During the period in which Milner was working with the Pall Mall Gazette he became associated with three persons of some importance later. One of these was Edward T. Cook (later Sir Edward, 1857-1919), who became a member of the Toynbee-Milner circle in 1879 while still an undergraduate at New College. Milner had become a Fellow of New College in 1878 and held the appointment until he was elected Chancellor of the University in 1925. With Edward Cook he began a practice which he was to repeat many times in his life later. That is, as Fellow of New College, he became familiar with undergraduates whom he later placed in positions of opportunity and responsibility to test their abilities. Cook was made secretary of the London Society for the Extension of University Teaching (1882) and invited to contribute to the Pall Mall Gazette. He succeeded Milner as assistant editor to Stead in 1885 and succeeded Stead as editor in 1890. He resigned as editor in 1892, when Waldorf Astor bought the Gazette, and founded the new Westminister Gazette, of which he was editor for three years (1893-1896). Subsequently editor of the Daily News for five years (1896-1901), he lost this post because of the proprietors’ objections to his unqualified support of Rhodes, Milner, and the Boer War. During the rest of his life (1901-1919) he was leader-writer for the Daily Chronicle, edited Ruskin’s works in thirty-eight volumes, wrote the standard biography of Ruskin and a life of John Delane, the great editor of The Times.
Also associated with Milner in this period was Edmund Garrett (1865-1907), who was Stead’s and Cook’s assistant on the Pall Mall Gazette for several years (1887-1892) and went with Cook to the Westminister Gazette (1893-1895). In 1889 he was sent by Stead to South Africa for his health and became a great friend of Cecil Rhodes. He wrote a series of articles for the Gazette, which were published in book form in 1891 as In Afrikanderland and the Land of Ophir. He returned to South Africa in 1895 as editor of the Cape Times, the most important English-language paper in South Africa. Both as editor (1895-1900) and later as a member of the Cape Parliament (1898-1902), he strongly supported Rhodes and Milner and warmly advocated a union of all South Africa. His health broke down completely in 1900, but he wrote a character analysis of Rhodes for the Contemporary Review (June 1902) and a chapter called "Rhodes and Milner" for The Empire and the Century (1905). Edward Cook wrote a full biography of Garrett in 1909, while Milner wrote Garrett’s sketch in the Dictionary of National Biography, pointing out "as his chief title to remembrance" his advocacy "of a United South Africa absolutely autonomous in its own affairs but remaining part of the British Empire."
During the period in which he was assistant editor of the Gazette, Milner had as roommate Henry Birchenough (later Sir Henry, 1853-1937). Birchenough went into the silk-manufacturing business, but his chief opportunities for fame came from his contacts with Milner. In 1903 he was made special British Trade Commissioner to South Africa, in 1906 a member of the Royal Commission on Shipping Rings (a controversial South African subject), in 1905 a director of the British South Africa Company (president in 1925), and in 1920 a trustee of the Beit Fund. During the First World War, he was a member of various governmental committees concerned with subjects in which Milner was especially interested. He was chairman of the Board of Trade’s Committee on Textiles after the war; chairman of the Royal Commission of Paper; chairman of the Committee on CottonGrowing in the Empire; and chairman of the Advisory Council to the Ministry of Reconstruction.
In 1885, as a result of his contact with such famous Liberals as Goschen, Morley, and Stead, and at the direct invitation of Michael Glazebrook, Milner stood for Parliament but was defeated. In the following year he supported the Unionists in the critical election on Home Rule for Ireland and acted as head of the "Literature Committee" of the new party. Goschen made him his private secretary when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Salisbury’s government in 1887. The two men were similar in many ways: both had been educated in Germany, and both had mathematical minds. It was Goschen’s influence which gave Milner the opportunity to form the Milner Group, because it was Goschen who introduced him to the Cecil Bloc. While Milner was Goschen’s private secretary, his parliamentary private secretary was Sir Robert Mowbray, an older contemporary of Milner’s at Balliol and a Fellow of All Souls for forty-six years (1873-1919).
As a result of Goschen’s influence, Milner was appointed successively Under Secretary of Finance in Egypt (1887-1892), chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue (1892-1897), and High Commissioner to South Africa (1897-1905). With the last position he combined several other posts, notably Governor of the Cape of Good Hope (1897-1901) and Governor of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony (1901-1905). But Goschen’s influence on Milner was greater than this, both in specific matters and in general. Specifically, as Chancellor of Oxford University in succession to Lord Salisbury (1903-1907) and as an intimate friend of the Warden of All Souls, Sir William Anson, Goschen became one of the instruments by which the Milner Group merged with All Souls. But more important than this, Goschen introduced Milner, in the period 1886-1905, into that extraordinary circle which rotated about the Cecil family.
CONTINUED BELOW THE FOOTNOTES
1 The sources of this information and a more detailed examination of the organization and personnel of the Rhodes secret society will be found in Chapter 3 below.
2 On Parkin, see the biography (1929) started by Sir John Willison and finished by Parkin’s son-in-law, William L. Grant. Also see the sketches of both Parkin and Milner in the Dictionary of National Biography. The debate in the Oxford Union which first brought Parkin to Milner’s attention is mentioned in Herbert Asquith’s (Lord Oxford and Asquith) Memories and Reflections (2 vols., Boston, 1928), I, 26.
3 The ideas for social service work among the poor and certain other ideas held by Toynbee and Milner were derived from the teachings of John Ruskin, who first came to Oxford as a professor during their undergraduate days. The two young men became ardent disciples of Ruskin and were members of his road-building group in the summer of 1870. The standard biography of Ruskin was written by a protege of Milner’s, Edward Cook. The same man edited the complete collection of Ruskin’s works in thirty-eight volumes. See Lord Oxford and Asquith, Memories and Reflections (2 vols., Boston, 1928), I, 48. Cook’s sketch in the Dictionary of National Biography was written by Asquith’s intimate friend and biographer, J.A. Spender.
4 The quotation is from Cecil Headlam, ed., The Milner Papers (2 vols., London, 1931-1933), I, 15. There exists no biography of Milner, and all of the works concerned with his career have been written by members of the Milner Group and conceal more than they reveal. The most important general sketches of his life are the sketch in the Dictionary of National Biography, the obituary in The Times (May 1925), and the obituary in The Round Table (June 1925, XV, 427-430). His own point of view must be sought in his speeches and essays. Of these, the chief collections are The Nation and the Empire (Boston, 1913) and Questions of the Hour (London, 1923). Unfortunately, the speeches after 1913 and all the essays which appeared in periodicals are still uncollected. This neglect of one of the most important figures of the twentieth century is probably deliberate, part of the policy of secrecy practiced by the Milner Group.
The Anglo-American Establishment
The Royal Institute of International Affairs
The Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) is nothing but the Milner Group “writ large.” It was founded by the Group, has been consistently controlled by the Group, and to this day is the Milner Group in its widest aspect. It is the legitimate child of the Round Table organization, just as the latter was the legitimate child of the “Closer Union” movement organized in South Africa in 1907. All three of these organizations were formed by the same small group of persons, all three received their initial financial backing from Sir Abe Bailey, and all three used the same methods for working out and propagating their ideas (the so-called Round Table method of discussion groups plus a journal). This similarity is not an accident. The new organization was intended to be a wider aspect of the Milner Group, the plan being to influence the leaders of thought through The Round Table and to influence a wider group through the RIIA.
The real founder of the Institute was Lionel Curtis, although this fact was concealed for many years and he was presented to the public as merely one among a number of founders. In more recent years, however, the fact that Curtis was the real founder of the Institute has been publicly stated by members of the Institute and by the Institute itself on many occasions, and never denied. One example will suffice. In the Annual Report of the Institute for 1942-1943 we read the following sentence: “When the Institute was founded through the inspiration of Mr. Lionel Curtis during the Peace Conference of Paris in 1919, those associated with him in laying the foundations were a group of comparatively young men and women.”
The Institute was organized at a joint conference of British and American experts at the Hotel Majestic on 30 May 1919. At the suggestion of Lord Robert Cecil, the chair was given to General Tasker Bliss of the American delegation. We have already indicated that the experts of the British delegation at the Peace Conference were almost exclusively from the Milner Group and Cecil Bloc. The American group of experts, “the Inquiry,” was manned almost as completely by persons from institutions (including universities) dominated by J.P. Morgan and Company. This was not an accident. Moreover, the Milner Group has always had very close relationships with the associates of J.P. Morgan and with the various branches of the Carnegie Trust. These relationships, which are merely examples of the closely knit ramifications of international financial capitalism, were probably based on the financial holdings controlled by the Milner Group through the Rhodes Trust. The term “international financier” can be applied with full justice to several members of the Milner Group inner circle, such as Brand, Hichens, and above all, Milner himself.
At the meeting at the Hotel Majestic, the British group included Lionel Curtis, Philip Kerr, Lord Robert Cecil, Lord Eustace Percy, Sir Eyre Crowe, Sir Cecil Hurst, J.W. Headlam-Morley, Geoffrey Dawson, Harold Temperley, and G.M. Gathorne-Hardy. It was decided to found a permanent organization for the study of international affairs and to begin by writing a history of the Peace Conference. A committee was set up to supervise the writing of this work. It had Lord Meston as chairman, Lionel Curtis as secretary, and was financed by a gift of £2000 from Thomas W. Lamont of J.P. Morgan and Company. This group picked Harold Temperley as editor of the work. It appeared in six large volumes in the years 1920-1924, under the auspices of the RIIA.
The British organization was set up by a committee of which Lord Robert Cecil was chairman, Lionel Curtis was honorary secretary and the following were members: Lord Eustace Percy, J.A.C. (later Sir John) Tilley, Philip Noel-Baker, Clement Jones, Harold Temperley, A.L. Smith (classmate of Milner and Master of Balliol), George W. Prothero, and Geoffrey Dawson. This group drew up a constitution and made a list of prospective members. Lionel Curtis and Gathorne-Hardy drew up the by-laws.
The above description is based on the official history of the RIIA published by the Institute itself in 1937 and written by Stephen King-Hall. It does not agree in its details (committees and names) with information from other sources, equally authoritative, such as the journal of the Institute or the preface to Temperley's History of the Peace Conference. The latter, for example, says that the members were chosen by a committee consisting of Lord Robert Cecil, Sir Valentine Chirol, and Sir Cecil Hurst. As a matter of fact, all of these differing accounts are correct, for the Institute was formed in such an informal fashion, as among friends, that membership on committees and lines of authority between committees were not very important. As an example, Mr. King-Hall says that he was invited to join the Institute in 1919 by Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian), although this name is not to be found on any membership committee. At any rate, one thing is clear: The Institute was formed by the Cecil Bloc and the Milner Group, acting together, and the real decisions were being made by members of the latter.
As organized, the Institute consisted of a council with a chairman and two honorary secretaries, and a small group of paid employees. Among these latter, A.J. Toynbee, nephew of Milner's old friend at Balliol, was the most important. There were about 300 members in 1920, 714 in 1922, 1707 in 1929, and 2414 in 1936. There have been three chairmen of the council: Lord Meston in 1920-1926, Major-General Sir Neill Malcolm in 1926-1935, and Lord Astor from 1935 to the present. All of these are members of the Milner Group, although General Malcolm is not yet familiar to us.
General Malcolm, from Eton and Sandhurst, married the sister of Dougal Malcolm of Milner's Kindergarten in 1907, when he was a captain in the British Army. By 1916 he was a lieutenant colonel and two years later a major general. He was with the British Military Mission in Berlin in 1919-1921 and General Officer Commanding in Malaya in 1921-1924, retiring in 1924. He was High Commissioner for German Refugees (a project in which the Milner Group was deeply involved) in 1936-1938 and has been associated with a number of industrial and commercial firms, including the British North Borneo Company, of which he is president and Dougal Malcolm is vice-president. It must not be assumed that General Malcolm won advancement in the world because of his connections with the Milner Group, for his older brother, Sir Ian Malcolm was an important member of the Cecil Bloc long before Sir Neill joined the Milner Group. Sir Ian, who went to Eton and New College, was assistant private secretary to Lord Salisbury in 1895-1900, was parliamentary private secretary to the Chief Secretary for Ireland (George Wyndham) in 1901-1903, and was private secretary to Balfour in the United States in 1917 and at the Peace Conference in 1919. He wrote the sketch of Walter Long of the Cecil Bloc (Lord Long of Wraxall) in the Dictionary of National Biography.
From the beginning, the two honorary secretaries of the Institute were Lionel Curtis and G.M. Gathorne-Hardy. These two, especially the latter, did much of the active work of running the organization. In 1926 the Report of the Council of the RIIA said: “It is not too much to say that the very existence of the Institute is due to those who have served as Honorary Officers.” The burden of work was so great on Curtis and Gathorne-Hardy by 1926 that Sir Otto Beit, of the Rhodes Trust, Milner Group, and British South Africa Company, gave £1000 for 1926 and 1927 for secretarial assistance. F.B. Bourdillon assumed the task of providing this assistance in March 1926. He had been secretary to Feetham on the Irish Boundary Commission in 1924-1925 and a member of the British delegation to the Peace Conference in 1919. He has been in the Research Department of the Foreign Office since 1943.
The active governing body of the Institute is the council, originally called the executive committee. Under the more recent name, it generally had twenty-five to thirty members, of whom slightly less than half were usually of the Milner Group. In 1923, five members were elected, including Lord Meston, Headlam-Morley, and Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton. The following year, seven were elected, including Wilson Harris, Philip Kerr, and Sir Neill Malcolm. And so it went. In 1936, at least eleven out of twenty-six members of the council were of the Milner Group. These included Lord Astor (chairman), L. Curtis, G.M. Gathorne-Hardy, Lord Hailey, H.D. Henderson, Stephen King-Hall, Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton, Sir Neill Malcolm, Lord Meston, Sir Arthur Salter, J.W. Wheeler-Bennett, E.L. Woodward, and Sir Alfred Zimmern. Among the others were A.V. Alexander, Sir John Power, Sir Norman Angell, Clement Jones, Lord Lytton, Harold Nicolson, Lord Snell, and C.K. Webster. Others who were on the council at various times were E.H. Carr, Harold Butler, G.N. Clark, Geoffrey Crowther, H.V. Hodson, Hugh Wyndham, G.W.A. Ormsley-Gore, Walter Layton, Austen Chamberlain, Malcolm MacDonald (elected 1933), and many other members of the Group.
The chief activities of the RIIA were the holding of discussion meetings, the organization of study groups, the sponsoring of research, and the publication of information and materials based on these. At the first meeting, Sir Maurice Hankey read a paper on “Diplomacy by Conference,” showing how the League of Nations grew out of the Imperial Conferences. This was published in The Round Table. No complete record exists of the meetings before the fall of 1921, but, beginning then, the principal speech at each meeting and resumes of the comments from the floor were published in the Journal. At the first of these recorded meetings, D.G. Hogarth spoke on “The Arab States,” with Lord Chelmsford in the chair. Stanley Reed, Chirol, and Meston spoke from the floor. Two weeks later, H.A.L. Fisher spoke on “The Second Assembly of the League of Nations,” with Lord Robert Cecil in the chair. Temperley and Wilson Harris also spoke. In November, Philip Kerr was the chief figure for two evenings on “Pacific Problems as They Would Be submitted to the Washington Conference.” At the end of the same month, A.J. Toynbee spoke on “The Greco-Turkish Question,” with Sir Arthur Evans in the chair, and early in December his father-in-law, Gilbert Murray, spoke on “Self-Determination,” with Lord Sumner in the chair. In January 1922, Chaim Weizmann spoke on “Zionism”; in February, Chirol spoke on “Egypt”; in April, Walter T. Layton spoke on “The Financial Achievement of the League of Nations,” with Lord Robert Cecil in the chair. In June, Wilson Harris spoke on “The Genoa Conference,” with Robert H. Brand in the chair. In October, Ormsby-Gore spoke on “Mandates,” with Lord Lugard in the chair. Two weeks later, Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland spoke on “The League of Nations,” with H.A.L. Fisher in the chair. In March 1923, Harold Butler spoke on the “International Labour Office,” with G.N. Barnes in the chair. Two weeks later, Philip Kerr spoke on “The Political Situation in the United States,” with Arthur Balfour in the chair. In October 1923, Edward F.L. Wood (Lord Halifax) spoke on “The League of Nations,” with H.A.L. Fisher in the chair. In November 1924, E.R. Peacock (Parkin's protege) spoke on “Mexico,” with Lord Eustace Percy in the chair. In October 1925, Leopold Amery spoke on “The League of Nations,” with Robert Cecil as chairman, while in May 1926, H.A.L. Fisher spoke on the same subject, with Neill Malcolm as chairman. In November 1925, Paul Mantoux spoke on “The Procedure of the League,” with Brand as chairman. In June 1923, Edward Grigg spoke on “Egypt,” with D.G. Hogarth in the chair. In the season of 1933-1934 the speakers included Ormsby-Gore, Oliver Lyttelton, Edward Grigg, Donald Somervell, Toynbee, Zimmern, R.W. Seton-Watson, and Lord Lothian. In the season of 1938-1939 the list contains the names of Wilson Harris, C.A. Macartney, Toynbee, Lord Hailey, A.G.B. Fisher, Harold Butler, Curtis, Lord Lothian, Zimmern, Lionel Hichens, and Lord Halifax. These rather scattered observations will show how the meetings were peppered by members of the Milner Group. This does not mean that the Group monopolized the meetings, or even spoke at a majority of them. The meetings generally took place once a week from October to June of each year, and probably members of the Group spoke or presided at no more than a quarter of them. This, however, represents far more than their due proportion, for when the Institute had 2500, members the Milner Group amounted to no more than 100.
The proceedings of the meetings were generally printed in abbreviated form in the Journal of the Institute. Until January 1927, this periodical was available only to members, but since that date it has been open to public subscription. The first issue was as anonymous as the first issue of The Round Table: no list of editors, no address, and no signature to the opening editorial introducing the new journal. The articles, however, had the names of the speakers indicated. When it went on public sale in January 1927, the name of the Institute was added to the cover. In time it took the name International Affairs. The first editor, we learn from a later issue, was Gathorne-Hardy. In January 1932 an editorial board was placed in charge of the publication. It consisted of Meston, Gathorne-Hardy, and Zimmern. This same board remained in control until war forced suspension of publication at the end of 1939. When publication was resumed in 1944 in Canada, the editorial board consisted of Hugh Wyndham, Geoffrey Crowther, and H.A.R. Gibb. Wyndham is still chairman of the board, but since the war the membership of the board has changed somewhat. In 1948 it had six members, of whom three are employees of the Institute, one is the son-in-law of an employee, the fifth is Professor of Arabic at Oxford, and the last is the chairman, Hugh Wyndham. In 1949 Adam Marris was added.
In addition to the History of the Peace Conference and the journal International Affairs, the Institute publishes the annual Survey of International Affairs. This is written either by members of the Group or by employees of the Institute. The chief writers have been Toynbee; his second wife, V.M. Boulter; Robert J. Stopford, who appears to be one of R.H. Brand's men and who wrote the reparations section each year;* H.V. Hodson, who did the economic sections from 1930-1938; and A.G.B. Fisher, who has done the economic sections since Hodson. Until 1928 the Survey had an appendix of documents, but since that year these have been published in a separate volume, usually edited by J.W. Wheeler-Bennett. Mr. Wheeler-Bennett became a member of the Milner Group and the Institute by a process of amalgamation. In 1924 he had founded a document service, which he called Information Service on International Affairs, and in the years following 1924 he published a number of valuable digests of documents and other information on disarmament, security, the World Court, reparations, etc., as well as a periodical called the Bulletin of International News. In 1927 he became Honorary Information Secretary of the RIIA, and in 1930 the Institute bought out all his information services for £3500 and made them into the Information Department of the Institute, still in charge of Mr. Wheeler-Bennett. Since the annual Documents on International Affairs resumed publication in 1944, it has been in charge of Monica Curtis (who may be related to Lionel Curtis), while Mr. Wheeler-Bennett has been busy elsewhere. In 1938-1939 he was Visiting Professor of International Relations at the University of Virginia: in 1939-1944 he was in the United States in various propaganda positions with the British Library of Information and for two years as Head of the British Political Warfare Mission in New York. Since 1946, he has been engaged in editing, from the British side, an edition of about twenty volumes of the captured documents of the German Foreign Ministry. He has also lectured on international affairs at New College, a connection obviously made through the Milner Group.
The Survey of International Affairs has been financed since 1925 by an endowment of £20,000 given by Sir Daniel Stevenson for this purpose and also to provide a Research Chair of International History at the University of London. Arnold J. Toynbee has held both the professorship and the editorship since their establishment. He has also been remunerated by other grants from the Institute. When the first major volume of the Survey, covering the years 1920-1923, was published, a round-table discussion was held at Chatham House, 17 November 1925, to criticize it. Headlam-Morley was chairman, and the chief speakers were Curtis, Wyndham, Gathorne-Hardy, Gilbert Murray, and Toynbee himself.
Since the Survey did not cover British Commonwealth affairs, except in a general fashion, a project was established for a parallel Survey of British Commonwealth Relations. This was financed by a grant of money from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The task was entrusted to W.K. Hancock, a member of All Souls since 1924 and Chichele Professor of Economic History residing at All Souls since 1944. He produced three substantial volumes of the Survey in 1940-1942, with a supplementary legal chapter in volume I by R.T.E. Latham of All Souls and the Milner Group.
The establishment of the Stevenson Chair of International History at London, controlled by the RIIA, gave the Group the idea of establishing similar endowed chairs in other subjects and in other places. In 1936, Sir Henry Price gave £20,000 to endow for seven years a Chair of International Economics at Chatham House. This was filled by Allan G.B. Fisher of Australia.
In 1947 another chair was established at Chatham House: the Abe Bailey Professorship of Commonwealth Relations. This was filled by Nicholas Mansergh, who had previously written a few articles on Irish affairs and has since published a small volume on Commonwealth affairs.
By the terms of the foundation, the Institute had a voice in the election of professors to the Wilson Chair of International Politics at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. As a result, this chair has been occupied by close associates of the Group from its foundation. The following list of incumbents is significant:
A.E. Zimmern, 1919-1921
C.K. Webster, 1922-1932
J.D. Greene, 1932-1934
J.F. Vranek, (Acting), 1934-1936
E.H. Carr, 1936 to now
Three of these names are familiar. Of the others, Jiri Vranek was secretary to the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation (to be discussed in a moment). Jerome Greene was an international banker close to the Milner Group. Originally Mr. Greene had been a close associate of J.D. Rockefeiler, but in 1917 he shifted to the international banking firm Lee, Higginson, and Company of Boston. In 1918 he was American secretary to the Allied Maritime Transport Council in London (of which Arthur Salter was general secretary). He became a resident of Toynbee Hall and established a relationship with the Milner Group. In 1919 he was secretary to the Reparations Commission of the Peace Conference (a past in which his successor was Arthur Salter in 1920-1922). He was chairman of the Pacific Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations in 1929-1932. This last point will be discussed in a moment. Mr. Greene was a trustee and secretary of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913-1917, and was a trustee of the Rockefeller Institute and of the Rockefeller General Education Board in 1912-1939.
The study groups of the RIIA are direct descendants of the roundtable meetings of the Round Table Group. They have been defined by Stephen King-Hall as “unofficial Royal Commissions charged by the Council of Chatham House with the investigation of specific problems.” These study groups are generally made up of persons who are not members of the Milner Group, and their reports are frequently published by the Institute. In 1932 the Rockefeller Foundation gave the Institute a grant of £8000 a year for five years to advance the study-group method of research. This was extended for five years more in 1937.
In 1923, Lionel Curtis got a Canadian, Colonel R.W. Leonard, so interested in the work of the Institute that he bought Lord Kinnaird's house at 10 St. James Square as a home for the Institute. Since William Pitt had once lived in the building, it was named “Chatham House,” a designation which is now generally applied to the Institute itself. The only condition of the grant was that the Institute should raise an endowment to yield at least £10,000 a year for upkeep. Since the building had no adequate assembly hall, Sir John Power, the honorary treasurer, gave £10,000 to build one on the rear. The building itself was renovated and furnished under the care of Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton, who, like her late husband but unlike her son, Oliver, was a member of the Milner Group.
The assumption of the title to Chatham House brought up a major crisis within the Institute when a group led by Professor A.F. Pollard (Fellow of All Souls but not a member of the Milner Group) opposed the acceptance of the gift because of the financial commitment involved. Curtis put on an organized drive to mobilize the Group and put the opposition to flight. The episode is mentioned in a letter from John Dove to Brand, dated 9 October 1923.
This episode opens up the whole question of the financial resources available to the Institute and to the Milner Group in general. Unfortunately, we cannot examine the subject here, but it should be obvious that a group with such connections as the Milner Group would not find it difficult to finance the RIIA. In general, the funds came from the various endowments, banks, and industrial concerns with which the Milner Group had relationships. The original money in 1919, only £200, came from Abe Bailey. In later years he added to this, and in 1928 gave £5000 a year in perpetuity on the condition that the Institute never accept members who were not British subjects. When Sir Abe died in 1940, the annual Report of the Council said: “With the passing of Sir Bailey the Council and all the members of Chatham House mourn the loss of their most munificent Founder.” Sir Abe had paid various other expenses during the years. For example, when the Institute in November 1935 gave a dinner to General Smuts, Sir Abe paid the cost. All of this was done as a disciple of Lord Milner, for whose principles of imperial policy Bailey always had complete devotion.
Among the other benefactors of the Institute, we might mention the following. In 1926 the Carnegie United Kingdom Trustees (Hichens and Dame Janet Courtney) gave £3000 for books; the Bank of England gave £600; J.D. Rockefeller gave £3000. In 1929 pledges were obtained from about a score of important banks and corporations, promising annual grants to the Institute. Most of these had one or more members of the Milner Group on their boards of directors. Included in the group were the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company; the Bank of England; Barclay's Bank; Baring Brothers; the British American Tobacco Company; the British South Africa Company; Central Mining and Investment Corporation; Erlangers, Ltd; the Ford Motor Company; Hambros' Bank; Imperial Chemical Industries; Lazard Brothers; Lever Brothers; Lloyd's; Lloyd's Bank; the Mercantile and General Insurance Company; the Midland Bank; Reuters; Rothschild and Sons; Stern Brothers; Vickers-Armstrong; the Westminster Bank; and Whitehall Securities Corporation.
Since 1939 the chief benefactors of the Institute have been the Astor family and Sir Henry Price. In 1942 the latter gave £50,000 to buy the house next door to Chatham House for an expansion of the library (of which E.L. Woodward was supervisor). In the same year Lord Astor, who had been giving £2000 a year since 1937, promised £3000 a year for seven years to form a Lord Lothian Memorial Fund to promote good relations between the United States and Britain. At the same time, each of Lord Astor's four sons promised £1000 a year for seven years to the general fund of the Institute.
Chatham House had close institutional relations with a number of other similar organizations, especially in the Dominions. It also has a parallel organization, which was regarded as a branch, in New York. This latter, the Council on Foreign Relations, was not founded by the American group that attended the meeting at the Hotel Majestic in 1919, but was taken over almost entirely by that group immediately after its founding in 1919. This group was made up of the experts on the American delegation to the Peace Conference who were most closely associated with J.P. Morgan and Company. The Morgan bank has never made any real effort to conceal its position in regard to the Council on Foreign Relations. The list of officers and board of directors are printed in every issue of Foreign Affairs and have always been loaded with partners, associates, and employees of J.P. Morgan and Company. According to Stephen King-Hall, the RIIA agreed to regard the Council on Foreign Relations as its American branch. The relationship between the two has always been very close. For example, the publications of one are available at reduced prices to the members of the other; they frequently sent gifts of books to each other (the Council, for example, giving the Institute a seventy-five-volume set of the Foreign Relations of the United States in 1933); and there is considerable personal contact between the officers of the two (Toynbee, for example, left the manuscript of Volumes 7-9 of A Study of History in the Council's vault during the recent war).
Chatham House established branch institutes in the various Dominions, but it was a slow process. In each case the Dominion Institute was formed about a core consisting of the Round Table Group's members in that Dominion. The earliest were set up in Canada and Australia in 1927. The problem was discussed in 1933 at the first unofficial British Commonwealth relations conference (Toronto), and the decision made to extend the system to New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Newfoundland. The last-named was established by Zimmern on a visit there the same year. The others were set up in 1934-1936.
As we have said, the members of the Dominion Institutes of International Affairs were the members of the Milner Group and their close associates. In Canada, for example, Robert L. Borden was the first president (1927-1931); N.W. Rowell was the second president; Sir Joseph Flavelle and Vincent Massey were vice-presidents; Glazebrook was honorary secretary; and Percy Corbett was one of the most important members. Of these, the first three were close associates of the Milner Group (especially of Brand) in the period of the First World War; the last four were members of the Group itself. When the Indian Institute was set up in 1936, it was done at the Viceroy's house at a meeting convened by Lord Willingdon (Brand's cousin). Robert Cecil sent a message, which was read by Stephen King-Hall. Sir Maurice Gwyer of All Souls became a member of the council. In South Africa, B.K. Long of the Kindergarten was one of the most important members. In the Australian Institute, Sir Thomas Bavin was president in 1934-1941, while F.W. Eggleston was one of its principal founders and vice-president for many years. In New Zealand, W. Downie Stewart was president of the Institute of International Affairs from 1935 on. Naturally, the Milner Group did not monopolize the membership or the official positions in these new institutes any more than they did in London, for this would have weakened the chief aim of the Group in setting them up, namely to extend their influence to wider areas.
Closely associated with the various Institutes of International Affairs were the various branches of the Institute of Pacific Relations. This was originally founded at Atlantic City in September 1924 as a private organization to study the problems of the Pacific Basin. It has representatives from eight countries with interests in the area. The representatives from the United Kingdom and the three British Dominions were closely associated with the Milner Group. Originally each country had its national unit, but by 1939, in the four British areas, the local Institute of Pacific Relations had merged with the local Institute of International Affairs. Even before this, the two Institutes in each country had practically interchangeable officers, dominated by the Milner Group. In the United States, the Institute of Pacific Relations never merged with the Council on Foreign Relations, but the influence of the associates of J.P. Morgan and other international bankers remained strong on both. The chief figure in the Institute of Pacific Relations of the United States was, for many years, Jerome D. Greene, Boston banker close to both Rockefeller and Morgan and for many years secretary to Harvard University.
The Institutes of Pacific Relations held joint meetings, similar to those of the unofficial conferences on British Commonwealth relations and with a similar group of delegates from the British member organizations. These meetings met every two years at first, beginning at Honolulu in 1925 and then assembling at Honolulu again (1927), at Kyoto (1929), at Shanghai (1931), at Banff (1933), and at Yosemite Park (1936). F.W. Eggleston, of Australia and the Milner Group, presided over most of the early meetings. Between meetings, the central organization, set up in 1927, was the Pacific Council, a selfperpetuating body. In 1930, at least five of its seven members were from the Milner Group, as can be seen from the following list:
THE PACIFIC COUNCIL, 1930
Jerome D. Greene of the United States
F.W. Eggleston of Australia
N.W. Rowell of Canada
D.Z.T. Yui of China
Lionel Curtis of the United Kingdom
I. Nitobe of Japan
Sir James Allen of New Zealand
The close relationships among all these organizations can be seen from a tour of inspection which Lionel Curtis and Ivison S. Macadam (secretary of Chatham House, in succession to F.B. Bourdillon, since 1929) made in 1938. They not only visited the Institutes of International Affairs of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada but attended the Princeton meeting of the Pacific Council of the IPR. Then they separated, Curtis going to New York to address the dinner of the Council on Foreign Relations and visit the Carnegie Foundation, while Macadam went to Washington to visit the Carnegie Endowment and the Brookings Institution.
Through the League of Nations, where the influence of the Milner Group was very great, the RIIA was able to extend its intellectual influence into countries outside the Commonwealth. This was done, for example, through the Intellectual Cooperation Organization of the League of Nations. This Organization consisted of two chief parts: (a) The International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, an advisory body; and (b) The International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation, an executive organ of the Committee, with headquarters in Paris. The International Committee had about twenty members from various countries; Gilbert Murray was its chief founder and was chairman from 1928 to its disbandment in 1945. The International Institute was established by the French government and handed over to the League of Nations (1926). Its director was always a Frenchman, but its deputy director and guiding spirit was Alfred Zimmern from 1926 to 1930. It also had a board of directors of six persons; Gilbert Murray was one of these from 1926.
It is interesting to note that from 1931 to 1939 the Indian representative on the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. In 1931 he was George V Professor of Philospohy at Calcutta University. His subsequent career is interesting. He was knighted in 1931, became Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford in 1936, and became a Fellow of All Souls in 1944.
Beginning in 1928 at Berlin, Professor Zimmern organized annual round-table discussion meetings under the auspices of the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation. These were called the International Studies Conferences and devoted themselves to an effort to obtain different national points of view on international problems. The members of the Studies Conferences were twenty-five organizations. Twenty of these were Coordinating Committees created for the purpose in twenty different countries. The other five were the following international organizations: The Academy of International Law at The Hague; The European Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; the Geneva School of International Studies; the Graduate Institute of International Studies at Geneva; the Institute of Pacific Relations. In two of these five, the influence of the Milner Group and its close allies was preponderant. In addition, the influence of the Group was decisive in the Coordinating Committees within the British Commonwealth, especially in the British Coordinating Committee for International Studies. The members of this committee were named by four agencies, three of which were controlled by the Milner Group. They were: (1) the RIIA, (2) the London School of Economics and Political Science, (3) the Department of International Politics at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and (4) the Montague Burton Chair of International Relations at Oxford. We have already indicated that the Montague Burton Chair was largely controlled by the Milner Group, since the Group always had a preponderance on the board of electors to that chair. This was apparently not assured by the original structure of this board, and it was changed in the middle 1930s. After the change, the board had seven electors: (1) the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, ex officio; (2) the Master of Balliol, ex officio; (3) Viscount Cecil of Chelwood; (4) Gilbert Murray, for life; (5) B.H. Sumner; (6) Sir Arthur Salter; and (7) Sir J. Fischer Williams of New College. Thus, at least four of this board were members of the Group. In 1947 the electoral board to the Montague Burton Professorship consisted of R.M. Barrington-Ward (editor of The Times); Miss Agnes Headlam-Morley (daughter of Sir James Headlam-Morley of the Group); Sir Arthur Salter; R.C.K. Ensor; and one vacancy, to be filled by Balliol College. It was this board, apparently, that named Miss Headlam-Morley to the Montague Burton Professorship when E.L. Woodward resigned in 1947. As can be seen, the Milner Group influence was predominant, with only one member out of five (Ensor) clearly not of the Group.
The RIIA had the right to name three persons to the Coordinating Committee. Two of these were usually of the Milner Group. In 1933, for example, the three were Lord Meston, Clement Jones, and Toynbee.
The meetings of the International Studies Conferences were organized in a fashion identical with that used in other meetings controlled by the Milner Group-for example, in the unofficial conferences on British Commonwealth relations-and the proceedings were published by the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation in a similar way to those of the unofficial conferences just mentioned, except that the various speakers were identified by name. As examples of the work which the International Studies Conferences handled, we might mention that at the fourth and fifth sessions (Copenhagen in 1931 and Milan in 1932), they examined the problem of “The State and Economic Life”; at the seventh and eighth session (Paris in 1934 and London in 1935), they examined the problem of “Collective Security”; and at the ninth and tenth sessions (Madrid in 1936 and Paris 1937) they examined the problem of “University Teaching of International Relations.”
In all of these conferences the Milner Group played a certain part. They could have monopolized the British delegations at these meetings if they had wished, but, with typical Milner Group modesty they made no effort to do so. Their influence appeared most clearly at the London meeting of 1935. Thirty-nine delegates from fourteen countries assembled at Chatham House to discuss the problem of collective security. Great Britain had ten delegates. They were Dr. Hugh Dalton, Professor H. Lauterpacht, Captain Liddell Hart, Lord Lytton, Professor A.D. McNair, Professor C.A.W. Manning, Dr. David Mitrany, Rear Admiral H.G. Thursfield, Arnold J. Toynbee, and Professor C.K. Webster. In addition, the Geneva School of International Studies sent two delegates: J.H. Richardson and A.E. Zimmern. The British delegation presented three memoranda to the conference. The first, a study of “Sanctions,” was prepared by the RIIA and has been published since. The second, a study of “British Opinion on Collective Security,” was prepared by the British Coordinating Committee. The third, a collection of “British Views on Collective Security,” was prepared by the delegates. It had an introduction by Meston and nine articles, of which one was by G.M. Gathorne-Hardy and one by H.V. Hodson. Zimmern also presented a memorandum on behalf of the Geneva School. Opening speeches were made by Austen Chamberlain, Allen W. Dulles (of the Council on Foreign Relations), and Louis Eisenmann of the University of Paris. Closing speeches were made by Lord Meston, Allen Dulles, and Gilbert Murray. Meston acted as president of the conference, and Dulles as chairman of the study meetings. The proceedings were edited and published by a committee of two Frenchmen and A.J. Toynbee.
At the sessions on “Peaceful Change” in 1936-37, Australia presented one memorandum (“The Growth of Australian Population”). It was written by F.W. Eggleston and G. Packer. The United Kingdom presented fifteen memoranda. Eight of these were prepared by the RIIA, and seven by individuals. Of the seven individual works, two were written by members of All Souls who were also members of the Milner Group (C.A. Macartney and C.R.M.F. Cruttwell). The other five were written by experts who were not members of the Group (A.M. Carr-Saunders, A.B. Keith, D. Harwood, H. Lauterpacht, and R. Kuczynski).
In the middle 1930s the Milner Group began to take an interest in the problem of refugees and stateless persons, as a result of the persecutions of Hitler and the approaching closing of the Nansen Office of the League of Nations. Sir Neill Malcolm was made High Commissioner for German Refugees in 1936. The following year the RIIA began a research program in the problem. This resulted in a massive report, edited by Sir John Hope Simpson who was not a member of the Group and was notoriously unsympathetic to Zionism (1939). In 1938 Roger M. Makins was made secretary to the British delegation to the Evian Conference on Refugees. Mr. Makins' full career will be examined later. At this point it is merely necessary to note that he was educated at Winchester School and at Christ Church, Oxford, and was elected to a Fellowship at All Souls in 1925, when only twenty-one years old. After the Evian Conference (where the British, for strategic reasons, left all the responsible positions to the Americans), Mr. Makins was made secretary to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. He was British Minister in Washington from 1945 to 1947 and is now Assistant Under Secretary in the Foreign Office.
Before leaving the subject of refugees, we might mention that the chief British agent for Czechoslovakian refugees in 1938-1939 was R.J. Stopford, an associate of the Milner Group already mentioned.
At the time of the Czechoslovak crisis in September 1938, the RIIA began to act in an unofficial fashion as an adviser to the Foreign Office. When war began a year later, this was made formal, and Chatham House became, for all practical purposes, the research section of the Foreign Office. A special organization was established in the Institute, in charge of A.J. Toynbee, with Lionel Curtis as his chief support acting “as the permanent representative of the chairman of the Council, Lord Astor.” The organization consisted of the press-clipping collection, the information department, and much of the library. These were moved to Oxford and set up in Balliol, All Souls, and Rhodes House. The project was financed by the Treasury, All Souls, Balliol, and Chatham House jointly. Within a brief time, the organization became known as the Foreign Research and Press Service (FRPS). It answered all questions on international affairs from government departments, prepared a weekly summary of the foreign press, and prepared special research projects. When Anthony Eden was asked a question in the House of Commons on 23 July 1941, regarding the expense of this project, he said that the Foreign Office had given it £,53,000 in the fiscal year 1940-1941.During the winter of 1939-1940 the general meetings of the Institute were held in Rhodes House, Oxford, with Hugh Wyndham generally presiding. The periodical International Affairs suspended publication, but the Bulletin of International News continued, under the care of Hugh Latimer and A.J. Brown. The latter had been an undergraduate at Oxford in 1933-1936, was elected a Fellow of All Souls in 1938, and obtained a D.Phil. in 1939. The former may be Alfred Hugh Latimer, who was an undergraduate at Merton from 1938 to 1946 and was elected to the foundation of the same college in 1946.
As the work of the FRPS grew too heavy for Curtis to supervise alone, he was given a committee of four assistants. They were G.N. Clark, H.J. Paton, C.K. Webster, and A.E. Zimmern. About the same time, the London School of Economics established a quarterly journal devoted to the subject of postwar reconstruction. It was called Agenda, and G.N. Clark was editor. Clark had been a member of All Souls since 1912 and was Chichele Professor of Economic History from 1931 to 1943. Since 1943 he has been Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge. Not a member of the Milner Group, he is close to it and was a member of the council of Chatham House during the recent war.
At the end of 1942 the Foreign Secretary (Eden) wrote to Lord Astor that the government wished to take the FRPS over completely. This was done in April 1943. The existing Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office was merged with it to make the new Research Department of the Ministry. Of this new department Toynbee was director and Zimmern deputy director.
This brief sketch of the Royal Institute of International Affairs does not by any means indicate the very considerable influence which the organization exerts in English-speaking countries in the sphere to which it is devoted. The extent of that influence must be obvious. The purpose of this chapter has been something else: to show that the Milner Group controls the Institute. Once that is established, the picture changes. The influence of Chatham House appears in its true perspective, not as the influence of an autonomous body but as merely one of many instruments in the arsenal of another power. When the influence which the Institute wields is combined with that controlled by the Milner Group in other fields—in education, in administration, in newspapers and periodicals—a really terrifying picture begins to emerge. This picture is called terrifying not because the power of the Milner Group was used for evil ends. It was not. On the contrary, it was generally used with the best intentions in the world—even if those intentions were so idealistic as to be almost academic. The picture is terrifying because such power, whatever the goals at which it may be directed, is too much to be entrusted safely to any group. That it was too much to be safely entrusted to the Milner Group will appear quite clearly in Chapter 12. No country that values its safety should allow what the Milner Group accomplished in Britain—that is, that a small number of men should be able to wield such power in administration and politics, should be given almost complete control over the publication of the documents relating to their actions, should be able to exercise such influence over the avenues of information that create public opinion, and should be able to monopolize so completely the writing and the teaching of the history of their own period.
CONTINUED AFTER THE FOOTNOTES
1 Robert Jemmett Stopford (1895- ) was a banker in London from 1921 to 1928. He was private secretary to the chairman of the Simon Commission in 1928-1930, a member of the “Standstill Committee” on German Foreign Debts, a member of the Runciman Commission to Czechoslovakia in 1938, Liaison Officer for Refugees with the Czechoslovakian government in 1938-1939, Financial Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington in 1943-1945.===================================
The Anglo-American Establishment
Foreign Policy, 1919-1940
Any Effort to write an account of the influence exercised by the Milner Group in foreign affairs in the period between the two World Wars would require a complete rewriting of the history of that period. This cannot be done within the limits of a single chapter, and it will not be attempted. Instead, an effort will be made to point out the chief ideas of the Milner Group in this field, the chief methods by which they were able to make those ideas prevail, and a few significant examples of how these methods worked in practice.
The political power of the Milner Group in the period 1919-1939 grew quite steadily. It can be measured by the number of ministerial portfolios held by members of the Group. In the first period, 1919-1924, they generally held about one-fifth of the Cabinet posts. For example, the Cabinet that resigned in January 1924 had nineteen members; four were of the Milner Group, only one from the inner circle. These four were Leopold Amery, Edward Wood, Samuel Hoare, and Lord Robert Cecil. In addition, in the same period other members of the Group were in the government in one position or another. Among these were Milner, Austen Chamberlain, H.A.L. Fisher, Lord Ernle, Lord Astor, Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland, and W.G.A. Ormsby-Gore. Also, relatives of these, such as Lord Onslow (brother-in-law of Lord Halifax), Captain Lane-Fox (brother-in-law of Lord Halifax), and Lord Greenwood (brother-in-law of Amery), were in the government.
In this period the influence of the Milner Group was exercised in two vitally significant political acts. In the first case, the Milner Group appears to have played an important role behind the scenes in persuading the King to ask Baldwin rather than Curzon to be Prime Minister in 1923. Harold Nicolson, in Curzon: The Last Phase (1934), says that Balfour, Amery, and Walter Long intervened with the King to oppose Curzon, and “the cumulative effect of these representations was to reverse the previous decision.” Of the three names mentioned by Nicolson, two were of the Cecil Bloc, while the third was Milner’s closest associate. If Amery did intervene, he undoubtedly did so as the representative of Milner, and if Milner opposed Curzon to this extent through Amery, he was in a position to bring other powerful influences to bear on His Majesty through Lord Esher as well as through Brand’s brother, Viscount Hampden, a lord-in-waiting to the King, or more directly through Milner’s son-in-law, Captain Alexander Hardinge, a private secretary to the King. In any case, Milner exercised a very powerful influence on Baldwin during the period of his first government, and it was on Milner’s advice that Baldwin waged the General Election of 1924 on the issue of protection. The election manifesto issued by the party and advocating a tariff was written by Milner in consultation with Arthur Steel-Maitland.
In the period 1924-1929 the Milner Group usually held about a third of the seats in the Cabinet (seven out of twenty-one in the government formed in November 1924). These proportions were also held in the period 1935-1940, with a somewhat smaller ratio in the period 1931-1935. In the Cabinet that was formed in the fall of 1931, the Milner Group exercised a peculiar influence. The Labour Party under Ramsay MacDonald was in office with a minority government from 1929 to September 1931. Toward the end of this period, the Labour government experienced increasing difficulty because the deflationary policy of the Bank of England and the outflow of gold from the country were simultaneously intensifying the depression, increasing unemployment and public discontent, and jeopardizing the gold standard. In fact, the Bank of England’s policy made it almost impossible for the Labour Party to govern. Without informing his Cabinet, Ramsay MacDonald entered upon negotiations with Baldwin and King George, as a result of which MacDonald became Prime Minister of a new government, supported by Conservative votes in Parliament. The obvious purpose of this intrigue was to split the Labour Party and place the administration back in Conservative hands.
In this intrigue the Milner Group apparently played an important, if secret, role. That they were in a position to play such a role is clear. We have mentioned the pressure which the bankers were putting on the Labour government in the period 1929-1931. The Milner Group were clearly in a position to influence this pressure. E.R. Peacock (Parkin’s old associate) was at the time a director of the Bank of England and a director of Baring Brothers; Robert Brand, Thomas Henry Brand, and Adam Marris (son of Sir William Marris) were all at Lazard and Brothers; Robert Brand was also a director of Lloyd’s Bank; Lord Selborne was a director of Lloyd’s Bank; Lord Lugard was a director of Barclay’s Bank; Major Astor was a director of Hambros Bank; and Lord Goschen was a director of the Westminster Bank.
We have already indicated the ability of the Milner Group to influence the King in respect to the choice of Baldwin as Prime Minister in 1923. By 1931 this power was even greater. Thus the Milner Group was in a position to play a role in the intrigue of 1931. That they may have done so is to be found in the fact that two of the important figures in this intrigue within the Labour Party were ever after closely associated with the Milner Group. These two were Malcolm MacDonald and Godfrey Elton.
Malcolm MacDonald, son and intimate associate of Ramsay MacDonald, clearly played an important role in the intrigue of 1931. He was rewarded with a position in the new government and has never been out of office since. These offices included Parliamentary Under Secretary in the Dominions Office (1931-1935), Secretary of State for the Dominions (1935-1938 and 1938-1939), Secretary of State for the Colonies (1935-and 1938-1940), Minister of Health (1940-1941), United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada (1941-1946), Governor-General of Malaya and British South-East Asia (since 1946). Since all of these offices but one (Minister of Health) were traditionally in the sphere of the Milner Group, and since Malcolm MacDonald during this period was closely associated with the Group in its other activities, such as Chatham House and the unofficial British Commonwealth relations conferences, Malcolm MacDonald should probably be regarded as a member of the Group from about 1932 onward.
Godfrey Elton (Lord Elton since 1934), of Rugby and Balliol, was a Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford, from 1919, as well as lecturer on Modern History at Oxford. In this role Elton came in contact with Malcolm MacDonald, who was an undergraduate at Queen’s in the period 1920-1925. Through this connection, Elton ran for Parliament on the Labour Party ticket in 1924 and again in 1929, both times without success. He was more successful in establishing himself as an intellectual leader of the Labour Party, capping this by publishing in 1931 a study of the early days of the party. As a close associate of the MacDonald family, he supported the intrigue of 1931 and played a part in it. For this he was expelled from the party and became honorary political secretary of the new National Labour Committee and editor of its News-Letter (1932-1938). He was made a baron in 1934, was on the Ullswater Committee on the Future of Broadcasting the following year, and in 1939 succeeded Lord Lothian as Secretary to the Rhodes Trustees. By his close association with the MacDonald family, he became the obvious choice to write the “official” life of J.R. (Ramsay) MacDonald, the first volume of which was published in 1939. In 1945 he published a history of the British Empire called Imperial Commonwealth.
After the election of 1935, the Milner Group took a substantial part in the government, with possession of seven places in a Cabinet of twenty-one seats. By the beginning of September of 1939, they had only five out of twenty-three, the decrease being caused, as we shall see, by the attrition within the Group on the question of appeasement. In the War Cabinet formed at the outbreak of the war, they had four out of nine seats. In this whole period from 1935 to 1940, the following members of the Group were associated with the government as officers of state: Halifax, Simon, Malcolm MacDonald, Zetland, Ormsby-Gore, Hoare, Somervell, Lothian, Hankey, Grigg, Salter, and Amery.
It would appear that the Milner Group increased its influence on the government until about 1938. We have already indicated the great power which they exercised in the period 1915-1919. This influence, while great, was neither decisive nor preponderant. At the time, the Milner Group was sharing influence with at least two other groups and was, perhaps, the least powerful of the three. It surely was less powerful than the Cecil Bloc, even as late as 1929, and was less. powerful, perhaps, than the rather isolated figure of Lloyd George as late as 1922. These relative degrees of power on the whole do not amount to very much, because the three that we have mentioned generally agreed on policy. When they disagreed, the views of the Milner Group did not usually prevail. There were two reasons for this. Both the Cecil Bloc and Lloyd George were susceptible to pressure from the British electorate and from the allies of Britain. The Milner Group, as a non-elected group, could afford to be disdainful of the British electorate and of French opinion, but the persons actually responsible for the government, like Lloyd George, Balfour, and others, could not be so casual. As a consequence, the Milner Group were bitterly disappointed over the peace treaty with Germany and over the Covenant of the League of Nations. This may seem impossible when we realize how much the Group contributed to both of these. For they did contribute a great deal, chiefly because of the fact that the responsible statesmen generally accepted the opinion of the experts on the terms of the treaty, especially the territorial terms. There is only one case where the delegates overruled a committee of experts that was unanimous, and that was the case of the Polish Corridor, where the experts were more severe with Germany than the final agreement. The experts, thus, were of very great importance, and among the experts the Milner Group had an important place, as we have seen. It would thus seem that the Milner Group’s disappointment with the peace settlement was largely criticism of their own handiwork. To a considerable extent this is true. The explanation lies in the fact that much of what they did as experts was done on instructions from the responsible delegates and the fact that the Group ever after had a tendency to focus their eyes on the few blemishes of the settlement, to the complete neglect of the much larger body of acceptable decisions. Except for this, the Group could have no justification for their dissatisfaction except as self-criticism. When the original draft of the Treaty of Versailles was presented to the Germans on 7 May 1919, the defeated delegates were aghast at its severity. They drew up a detailed criticism of 443 pages. The answer to this protest, making a few minor changes in the treaty but allowing the major provisions to stand, was drafted by an interallied committee of five, of which Philip Kerr was the British member. The changes that were made as concessions to the Germans were made under pressure from Lloyd George, who was himself under pressure from the Milner Group. This appears clearly from the minutes of the Council of Four at the Peace Conference. The first organized drive to revise the draft of the treaty in the direction of leniency was made by Lloyd George at a meeting of the Council of Four on 2 June 1919. The Prime Minister said he had been consulting with his delegation and with the Cabinet. He specifically mentioned George Barnes (“the only Labour representative in his Cabinet”), the South African delegation (who “were also refusing to sign the present Treaty”), Mr. Fisher (“whose views carried great weight”), Austen Chamberlain, Lord Robert Cecil, and both the Archbishops. Except for Barnes and the Archbishops, all of these were close to the Milner Group. The reference to H.A.L. Fisher is especially significant, for Fisher’s views could “carry great weight” only insofar as he was a member of the Milner Group. The reference to the South African delegation meant Smuts, for Botha was prepared to sign, no matter what he felt about the treaty, in order to win for his country official recognition as a Dominion of equal status with Britain. Smuts, on the other hand, refused to sign from the beginning and, as late as 23 June 1919, reiterated his refusal (according to Mrs. Millen’s biography of Smuts).
Lloyd George’s objections to the treaty as presented in the Council of Four on 2 June were those which soon became the trademark of the Milner Group. In addition to criticisms of the territorial clauses on the Polish frontier and a demand for a plebiscite in Upper Silesia, the chief objections were aimed at reparations and the occupation of the Rhineland. On the former point, Lloyd George’s advisers “thought that more had been asked for than Germany could pay.” On the latter point, which “was the main British concern,” his advisers were insistent. “They urged that when the German Army was reduced to a strength of 100,000 men it was ridiculous to maintain an army of occupation of 200,000 men on the Rhine. They represented that it was only a method of quartering the French Army on Germany and making Germany pay the cost. It had been pointed out that Germany would not constitute a danger to France for 30 years or even 50 years; certainly not in 15 years.... The advice of the British military authorities was that two years was the utmost limit of time for the occupation.”
To these complaints, Clemenceau had replied that “in England the view seemed to prevail that the easiest way to finish the war was by making concessions. In France the contrary view was held that it was best to act firmly. The French people, unfortunately, knew the Germans very intimately, and they believed that the more concessions we made, the more the Germans would demand.... He recognized that Germany was not an immediate menace to France. But Germany would sign the Treaty with every intention of not carrying it out. Evasions would be made first on one point and then on another. The whole Treaty would go by the board if there were not some guarantees such as were provided by the occupation.”
Under such circumstances as these, it seems rather graceless for the Milner Group to have started at once, as it did, a campaign of recrimination against the treaty. Philip Kerr was from 1905 to his death in 1940 at the very center of the Milner Group. His violent Germanophobia in 1908-1918, and his evident familiarity with the character of the Germans and with the kind of treaty which they would have imposed on Britain had the roles been reversed, should have made the Treaty of Versailles very acceptable to him and his companions, or, if not, unacceptable on grounds of excessive leniency. Instead, Kerr, Brand, Curtis, and the whole inner core of the Milner Group began a campaign to undermine the treaty, the League of Nations, and the whole peace settlement. Those who are familiar with the activities of the “Cliveden Set” in the 1930s have generally felt that the appeasement policy associated with that group was a manifestation of the period after 1934 only. This is quite mistaken. The Milner Group, which was the reality behind the phantom-like Cliveden Set, began their program of appeasement and revision of the settlement as early as 1919. Why did they do this?
To answer this question, we must fall back on the statements of the members of the Group, general impressions of their psychological outlook, and even a certain amount of conjecture. The best statement of what the Group found objectionable in the peace of 1919 will be found in a brilliant book of Zimmern’s called Europe in Convalescence (1922). More concrete criticism, especially in regard to the Covenant of the League, will be found in The Round Table. And the general mental outlook of the Group in 1919 will be found in Harold Nicolson’s famous book Peace-Making. Nicolson, although on close personal relationships with most of the inner core of the Milner Group, was not a member of the Group himself, but his psychology in 1918-1920 was similar to that of the members of the inner core.
In general, the members of this inner core took the propagandist slogans of 1914-1918 as a truthful picture of the situation. I have indicated how the Group had worked out a theory of history that saw the whole past in terms of a long struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of righteousness. The latter they defined at various times as “the rule of law” (a la Dicey), as “the subordination of each to the welfare of all,” as “democracy,” etc. They accepted Wilson’s identification of his war aims with his war slogans (“a world safe for democracy,” “a war to end wars,” “a war to end Prussianism,” “self-determination,” etc.) as meaning what they meant by “the rule of law.” They accepted his Fourteen Points (except “freedom of the seas”) as implementation of these aims. Moreover, the Milner Group, and apparently Wilson, made an assumption which had a valid basis but which could be very dangerous if carried out carelessly. This was the assumption that the Germans were divided into two groups, “Prussian autocrats” and “good Germans.” They assumed that, if the former group were removed from positions of power and influence, and magnanimous concessions were made to the latter, Germany could be won over on a permanent basis from “Asiatic despotism” to “Western civilization.” In its main outlines, the thesis was valid. But difficulties were numerous.
In the first place, it is not possible to distinguish between “good” Germans and “bad” Germans by any objective criterion. The distinction certainly could not be based on who was in public office in 1914-1918. In fact, the overwhelming mass of Germans — almost all the middle classes, except a few intellectuals and very religious persons; a considerable portion of the aristocratic class (at least half); and certain segments of the working class (about one-fifth) — were “bad” Germans in the sense in which the Milner Group used that expression. In their saner moments, the Group knew this. In December 1918, Curtis wrote in The Round Table on this subject as follows: “No one class, but the nation itself was involved in the sin. There were Socialists who licked their lips over Brest-Litovsk. All but a mere remnant, and those largely in prison or exile, accepted or justified the creed of despotism so long as it promised them the mastery of the world. The German People consented to be slaves in their own house as the price of enslaving mankind.” If these words had been printed and posted on the walls of All Souls, of Chatham House, of New College, of The Times office in Printing House Square, and of The Round Table office at 175 Piccadilly, there need never have been a Second World War with Germany. But these words were not remembered by the Group. Instead, they assumed that the “bad” Germans were the small group that was removed from office in 1918 with the Kaiser. They did not see that the Kaiser was merely a kind of facade for four other groups: The Prussian Officers’ Corps, the Junker landlords, the governmental bureaucracy (especially the administrators of police and justice), and the great industrialists. They did not see that these four had been able to save themselves in 1918 by jettisoning the Kaiser, who had become a liability. They did not see that these four were left in their positions of influence, with their power practically intact—indeed, in many ways with their power greater than ever, since the new “democratic” politicians like Ebert, Scheidemann, and Noske were much more subservient to the four groups than the old imperial authorities had ever been. General Groner gave orders to Ebert over his direct telephone line from Kassel in a tone and with a directness that he would never have used to an imperial chancellor. In a word, there was no revolution in Germany in 1918. The Milner Group did not see this, because they did not want to see it. Not that they were not warned. Brigadier General John H. Morgan, who was almost a member of the Group and who was on the Interallied Military Commission of Control in Germany in 1919-1923, persistently warned the government and the Group of the continued existence and growing power of the German Officers’ Corps and of the unreformed character of the German people. As a graduate of Balliol and the University of Berlin (1897-1905), a leader-writer on The Manchester Guardian (1904-1905), a Liberal candidate for Parliament with Amery in 1910, an assistant adjutant general with the military section of the British delegation to the Peace Conference of 1919, the British member on the Prisoners of War Commission (1919), legal editor of The Encyclopedia Britannica (14th edition), contributor to The Times, reader in constitutional law to the Inns of Court (1926-1936), Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of London, Rhodes Lecturer at London (1927-1932), counsel to the Indian Chamber of Princes (1934-1937), counsel to the Indian State of Gwalior, Tagore Professor at Calcutta (1939) — as all of these things, and thus close to many members of the Group, General Morgan issued warnings about Germany that should have been heeded by the Group. They were not. No more attention was paid to them than was paid to the somewhat similar warnings coming from Professor Zimmern. And the general, with less courage than the professor, or perhaps with more of that peculiar group loyalty which pervades his social class in England, kept his warnings secret and private for years. Only in October 1924 did he come out in public with an article in the Quarterly Review on the subject, and only in 1945 did he find a wider platform in a published book (Assize of Arms), but in neither did he name the persons who were suppressing the warnings in his official reports from the Military Commission.
In a similar fashion, the Milner Group knew that the industrialists, the Junkers, the police, and the judges were cooperating with the reactionaries to suppress all democratic and enlightened elements in Germany and to help all the forces of “despotism” and “sin” (to use Curtis’s words). The Group refused to recognize these facts. For this, there were two reasons. One, for which Brand was chiefly responsible, was based on certain economic assumptions. Among these, the chief was the belief that “disorder” and social unrest could be avoided only if prosperity were restored to Germany as soon as possible. By “disorder,” Brand meant such activities as were associated with Trotsky in Russia, Béla Kun in Hungary, and the Spartacists or Kurt Eisner in Germany. To Brand, as an orthodox international banker, prosperity could be obtained only by an economic system under the control of the old established industrialists and bankers. This is perfectly clear from Brand’s articles in The Round Table, reprinted in his book, War and National Finance (1921). Moreover, Brand felt confident that the old economic groups could reestablish prosperity quickly only if they were given concessions in respect to Germany’s international financial position by lightening the weight of reparations on Germany and by advancing credit to Germany, chiefly from the United States. T
The Anglo-American Establishment
More important than the Milner Group’s ability to influence opinion in the Dominions was its ability to influence decisions in London. In much of this latter field, Lord Esher undoubtedly played an important role. It is perfectly clear that Lord Esher disliked collective security, and for the same reasons as The Round Table. This can be seen in his published Journals and Letters. For example, on 18 February 1919, in a letter to Hankey, he wrote: “I fervently believe that the happiness and welfare of the human race is more closely concerned in the evolution of English democracy and of our Imperial Commonwealth than in the growth of any international League.” On 7 December 1919, in another letter to Hankey, he wrote: “You say that my letter was critical and not constructive. So it was. But the ground must be cleared of debris first. I assume that this is done. We will forget the high ideals and the fourteen points for the moment. We will be eminently practical. So here goes. Do not let us bother about a League of Nations. It may come slowly or not at all. What step forward, if any, can we take ? We can get a League of Empire.” Shortly afterwards, writing to his heir, the present Viscount Esher, he called the League “a paper hoop.” The importance of this can be seen if we realize that Lord Esher was the most important factor on the Committee of Imperial Defence, and this committee was one of the chief forces determining British foreign policy in this period. In fact, no less an authority than Lord Robert Cecil has said that the Geneva Protocol was rejected on the advice of the Committee of Imperial Defence and that he accepted that decision only when he was promised a new project which subsequently became the Locarno Pacts.
The rejection of the Protocol by Britain was regarded subsequently by real supporters of the League as the turning point in its career. There was an outburst of public sentiment against this selfish and cold-blooded action. Zimmern, who knew more than he revealed, went to Oxford in May 1925 and made a brilliant speech against those who were sabotaging the League. He did not identify them, but clearly indicated their existence, and, as the cruelest blow of all, attributed their actions to a failure of intelligence.
As a result of this feeling, which was widespread throughout the world, the Group determined to give the world the appearance of a guarantee to France. This was done in the Locarno Pacts, the most complicated and most deceitful international agreement made between the Treaty of Versailles and the Munich Pact. We cannot discuss them in detail here, but must content ourselves with pointing out that in appearance, and in the publicity campaign which accompanied their formation, the Locarno agreements guaranteed the frontier of Germany with France and Belgium with the power of these three states plus Britain and Italy. In reality the agreements gave France nothing, while they gave Britain a veto over French fulfillment of her alliances with Poland and the Little Entente. The French accepted these deceptive documents for reasons of internal politics: obviously, any French government which could make the French people believe that it had been able to secure a British guarantee of France’s eastern frontier could expect the gratitude of the French people to be reflected at the polls. The fundamental shrewdness and realism of the French, however, made it difficult to conceal from them the trap that lay in the Locarno agreements. This trap consisted of several interlocking factors. In the first place, the agreements did not guarantee the German frontier and the demilitarized condition of the Rhineland against German actions, but against the actions of either Germany or France. This, at one stroke, gave Britain the legal grounds for opposing France if she tried any repetition of the military occupation of the Ruhr, and, above all, gave Britain the right to oppose any French action against Germany in support of her allies to the east of Germany. This meant that if Germany moved east against Czechoslovakia, Poland, and, eventually, Russia, and if France attacked Germany’s western frontier in support of Czechoslovakia or Poland, as her alliances bound her to do, Great Britain, Belgium, and Italy might be bound by the Locarno Pacts to come to the aid of Germany. To be sure, the same agreement might bind these three powers to oppose Germany if she drove westward against France, but the Milner Group did not object to this for several reasons. In the first place, if Germany attacked France directly, Britain would have to come to the help of France whether bound by treaty or not. The old balance-of-power principle made that clear. In the second place, Cecil Hurst, the old master of legalistic doubletalk, drew up the Locarno Pacts with the same kind of loopholes which he had put in the crucial articles of the Covenant. As a result, if Germany did violate the Locarno Pacts against France, Britain could, if she desired, escape the necessity of fulfilling her guarantee by slipping through one of Hurst’s loopholes. As a matter of fact, when Hitler did violate the Locarno agreements by remilitarizing the Rhineland in March 1936, the Milner Group and their friends did not even try to evade their obligation by slipping through a loophole, but simply dishonored their agreement.
This event of March 1936, by which Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, was the most crucial event in the whole history of appeasement. So long as the territory west of the Rhine and a strip fifty kilometers wide on the east bank of the river were demilitarized, as provided in the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pacts, Hitler would never have dared to move against Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. He would not have dared because, with western Germany unfortified and denuded of German soldiers, France could have easily driven into the Ruhr industrial area and crippled Germany so that it would be impossible to go eastward. And by this date, certain members of the Milner Group and of the British Conservative government had reached the fantastic idea that they could kill two birds with one stone by setting Germany and Russia against one another in Eastern Europe. In this way they felt that the two enemies would stalemate one another, or that Germany would become satisfied with the oil of Rumania and the wheat of the Ukraine. It never occurred to anyone in a responsible position that Germany and Russia might make common cause, even temporarily, against the West. Even less did it occur to them that Russia might beat Germany and thus open all Central Europe to Bolshevism.
This idea of bringing Germany into a collision with Russia was not to be found, so far as the evidence shows, among any members of the inner circle of the Milner Group. Rather it was to be found among the personal associates of Neville Chamberlain, including several members of the second circle of the Milner Group. The two policies followed parallel courses until March 1939. After that date the Milner Group’s disintegration became very evident, and part of it took the form of the movement of several persons (like Hoare and Simon) from the second circle of the Milner Group to the inner circle of the new group rotating around Chamberlain. This process was concealed by the fact that this new group was following, in public at least, the policy desired by the Milner Group; their own policy, which was really the continuation of appeasement for another year after March 1939, was necessarily secret, so that the contrast between the Chamberlain group and the inner circle of the Milner Group in the period after March 1939 was not as obvious as it might have been.
In order to carry out this plan of allowing Germany to drive eastward against Russia, it was necessary to do three things: (1) to liquidate all the countries standing between Germany and Russia; (2) to prevent France from honoring her alliances with these countries; and (3) to hoodwink the English people into accepting this as a necessary, indeed, the only solution to the international problem. The Chamberlain group were so successful in all three of these things that they came within an ace of succeeding, and failed only because of the obstinacy of the Poles, the unseemly haste of Hitler, and the fact that at the eleventh hour the Milner Group realized the implications of their policy and tried to reverse it.
The program of appeasement can be divided into three stages: the first from 1920 to 1934, the second from 1934 to 1937, and the third from 1937 to 1940. The story of the first period we have almost completed, except for the evacuation of the Rhineland in 1930, five years ahead of the date set in the Treaty of Versailles. It would be too complicated a story to narrate here the methods by which France was persuaded to yield on this point. It is enough to point out that France was persuaded to withdraw her troops in 1930 rather than 1935 as a result of what she believed to be concessions made to her in the Young Plan. That the Milner Group approved this evacuation goes without saying. We have already mentioned The Round Table’s demand of June 1923 that the Rhineland be evacuated. A similar desire will be found in a letter from John Dove to Brand in October 1927.
The second period of appeasement began with Smuts’s famous speech of 13 November 1934, delivered before the RIIA. The whole of this significant speech deserves to be quoted here, but we must content ourselves with a few extracts:
With all the emphasis at my command, I would call a halt to this war talk as mischievous and dangerous war propaganda. The expectation of war tomorrow or in the near future is sheer nonsense, and all those who are conversant with affairs know it.... The remedy for this fear complex is ... bringing it into the open and exposing it to the light of day.... And this is exactly the method of the League of Nations ... it is an open forum for discussion among the nations, it is a round table for the statesmen around which they can ventilate and debate their grievances and viewpoints.... There are those who say that this is not enough-that as long as the League remains merely a talking shop or debating society, and is not furnished with “teeth” and proper sanctions, the sense of insecurity will remain.... It is also felt that the inability of the League to guarantee the collective system by means of force, if necessary, is discrediting it and leading to its decay. ... I cannot visualize the League as a military machine. It was not conceived or built for that purpose, it is not equipped for such functions. And if ever the attempt were made to transform it into a military machine, into a system to carry on war for the purpose of preventing war, I think its fate is sealed.... Defection of the United States has largely defeated its main objects. And the joining up of the United States must continue to be the ultimate goal of all true friends of the League and of the cause of peace. A conference of the nations the United States can, and eventually will, join; it can never join an international War Office. Remembering the debates on this point in the League of Nations Commission which drafted the Covenant, I say quite definitely that the very idea of a league of force was negatived there; and the League would be quite false to its fundamental idea and to its great mission ... if it allowed itself to be turned into something quite different, something just the opposite of its original idea—into a league of force. ... To endeavor to cast out the Satan of fear by calling in the Beelzebub of militarism, and militarizing the League itself, would be a senseless and indeed fatal proceeding.... The removal of the inferiority complex from Germany is just as essential to future peace as the removal of fear from the mind of France; and both are essential to an effective disarmament policy. How can the inferiority complex which is obsessing and, I fear, poisoning the mind and indeed the soul of Germany be removed ? There is only one way, and that is to recognize her complete equality of status with her fellows, and to do so frankly, freely, and unreservedly. That is the only medicine for her disease. ... While one understands and sympathizes with French fears, one cannot but feel for Germany in the position of inferiority in which she still remains sixteen years after the conclusion of the War. The continuance of her Versailles status is becoming an offense to the conscience of Europe and a danger to future peace.... There is no place in international law for second-rate nations, and least of all should Germany be kept in that position.... Fair play, sportsmanship — indeed, every standard of private and public life — calls for frank revision of the position. Indeed, ordinary prudence makes it imperative. Let us break those bonds and set the captive, obsessed, soul free in a decent human way. And Europe will reap a rich reward in tranquillity, security, and returning prosperity.... I would say that to me the future policy and association of our great British Commonwealth lie more with the United States than with any other group in the world. If ever there comes a parting of the ways, if ever in the crisis of the future we are called upon to make a choice, that, it seems to me, should be the company we should prefer to walk with and march with to the unknown future.... Nobody can forecast the outcome of the stormy era of history on which we are probably entering.
At the time that Smuts made this significant speech, the Milner Group had already indicated to Hitler officially that Britain was prepared to give Germany arms equality. France had greeted the arrival to power of Hitler by desperate efforts to form an “Eastern Locarno” against Germany. Sir John Simon, who was Foreign Secretary from September 1931 to June 1935, repudiated these efforts on 13 July 1934 in a speech which was approved by The Times the following day. He warned the French that Britain would not approve any effort “to build up one combination against another,” would refuse to assume any new obligations herself, would insist that Russia join the League of Nations before she become a party to any multilateral settlement, and insisted on arms equality for Germany. On the same day, Austen Chamberlain laid the groundwork for the German remilitarization of the Rhineland by a speech in which he insisted that the Locarno agreements did not bind Britain to use troops. He clearly indicated how Britain, by her veto power in the Council of the League, could prevent a League request to provide troops to enforce Locarno, and added that such a request would not be binding on Britain, even if voted, since “there was no automatic obligation under the Government to send our Army to any frontier.”
In a debate in the House of Lords on 5 December 1934, Lord Cecil contradicted Smuts’s statement that “the idea of a League of force was negatived” in 1918 and restated his own views that force should be available to compel the observance of the three months’ moratorium between the settlement of a question by the Council and the outbreak of war. He said: “The thing which we were most anxious to secure against a renewal of a great war was that there should be collective action to prevent a sudden outbreak of war. It was never part of the Covenant system that force should be used in order to compel some particular settlement of a dispute. That, we thought, was going beyond what public opinion of the world would support; but we did think we could go so far as to say: ‘You are not to resort to war until every other means for bringing about a settlement has been exhausted.'” This was merely a restatement of the point of view that Lord Cecil had held since 1918. It did not constitute collective security, as the expression was used by the world in general. Yet this use of the words “collective security” to mean the enforcement of a three months’ moratorium before issuing a declaration of war—this weaker meaning—was being weakened even further by the Milner Group. This was made perfectly clear in a speech by Lord Lothian (Philip Kerr) immediately after Lord Cecil. On this day the latter parted from the Milner Group program of appeasement; more than ten years after Zimmern’s, this defection is of less significance than the earlier one because Lord Cecil did not see clearly what was being done and he had never been, apparently, a member of the inner circle of the Group, although he had attended meetings of the inner circle in the period after 1910.
Lord Lothian’s speech of 5 December 1934 in the House of Lords is, at first glance, a defense of collective security, but a second look shows clearly that by “collective security” the speaker meant appeasement. He contrasts collective security with power diplomacy and, having excluded all use of force under the former expression, goes on to interpret it to mean peaceful change without war. In the context of events, this could only mean appeasement of Germany. He said: “In international affairs, unless changes are made in time, war becomes inevitable.... If the collective system is to be successful, it must contain two elements. On the one hand, it must be able to bring about by pacific means alterations in the international structure, and, on the other hand, it must be strong enough to restrain Powers who seek to take the law into their own hands either by war or by power diplomacy, from being successful in their efforts.” This was nothing but the appeasement program of Chamberlain and Halifax—that concessions should be made to Germany to strengthen her on the Continent and in Eastern Europe, while Britain should remain strong enough on the sea and in the air to prevent Hitler from using war to obtain these concessions. The fear of Hitler’s using war was based not so much on a dislike of force (neither Lothian nor Halifax was a pacifist in that sense) but on the realization that if Hitler made war against Austria, Czechoslovakia, or Poland, public opinion in France and England might force their governments to declare war in spite of their desire to yield these areas to Germany. This, of course, is what finally happened.
Hitler was given ample assurance by the Milner Group, both within and without the government, that Britain would not oppose his efforts “to achieve arms equality.” Four days before Germany officially denounced the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, Leopold Amery made a slashing attack on collective security, comparing “the League which exists” and “the league of make-believe, a cloud cuckoo land, dreams of a millennium which we were not likely to reach for many a long year to come; a league which was to maintain peace by going to war whenever peace was disturbed. That sort of thing, if it could exist, would be a danger to peace; it would be employed to extend war rather than to put an end to it. But dangerous or not, it did not exist, and to pretend that it did exist was sheer stupidity.”
Four days later, Hitler announced Germany’s rearmament, and ten days after that, Britain condoned the act by sending Sir John Simon on a state visit to Berlin. When France tried to counterbalance Germany’s rearmament by bringing the Soviet Union into her eastern alliance system in May 1935, the British counteracted this by making the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 18 June 1935. This agreement, concluded by Simon, allowed Germany to build up to 35 percent of the size of the British Navy (and up to 100 percent in submarines). This was a deadly stab in the back to France, for it gave Germany a navy considerably larger than the French in the important categories of ships (capital ships and aircraft carriers) in the North Sea, because France was bound by treaty in these categories to only 33 percent of Britain’s; and France, in addition, had a worldwide empire to protect and the unfriendly Italian Navy off her Mediterranean coast. This agreement put the French Atlantic coast so completely at the mercy of the German Navy that France became completely dependent on the British fleet for protection in this area. Obviously, this protection would not be given unless France in a crisis renounced her eastern allies. As if this were not enough, Britain in March 1936 accepted the German remilitarization of the Rhineland and in August 1936 began the farcical nonintervention agreement in Spain, which put another unfriendly government on France’s remaining land frontier. Under such pressure, it was clear that France would not honor her alliances with the Czechs, the Poles, or the Russians, if they came due.
In these actions of March 1935 and March 1936, Hitler was running no risk, for the government and the Milner Group had assured him beforehand that it would accept his actions. This was done both in public and in private, chiefly in the House of Commons and in the articles of The Times. Within the Cabinet, Halifax, Simon, and Hoare resisted the effort to form any alignment against Germany. The authorized biographer of Halifax wrote in reference to Halifax’s attitude in 1935 and 1936:
“Was England to allow herself to be drawn into war because France had alliances in Eastern Europe ? Was she to give Mussolini a free pass to Addis Ababa merely to prevent Hitler marching to Vienna?” Questions similar to these were undoubtedly posed by Halifax in Cabinet. His own friends, in particular Lothian and Geoffrey Dawson of The Times, had for some time been promoting Anglo-German fellowship with rather more fervour than the Foreign Office. In January 1935 Lothian had a long conversation with Hitler, and Hitler was reputed to have proposed an alliance between England, Germany, and the United States which would in effect give Germany a free hand on the Continent, in return for which he had promised not to make Germany “a world power” or to attempt to compete with the British Navy. The Times consistently opposed the Eastern Locarno and backed Hitler’s non-aggression alternative. Two days before the Berlin talks, for instance, it advocated that they should include territorial changes, and in particular the question of Memel; while on the day they began [March 1935] its leading article suggested that if Herr Hitler can persuade his British visitors, and through them the rest of the world. that his enlarged army is really designed to give them equality of status and equality of negotiation with other countries, and is not to be trained for aggressive purposes, then Europe may be on the threshold of an era in which changes can be made without the use of force, and a potential aggressor may be deterred by the certain prospect of having to face overwhelming opposition ! How far The Times and Lothian were arguing and negotiating on the Government’s behalf is still not clear, but that Halifax was intimately acquainted with the trend of this argument is probable.
It goes without saying that the whole inner core of the Group, and their chief publications, such as The Times and The Round Table, approved the policy of appeasement completely and prodded it along with calculated indiscretions when it was felt necessary to do so. After the remilitarization of the Rhineland, The Times cynically called this act “a chance to rebuild.” As late as 24 February 1938, in the House of Lords, Lothian defended the same event. He said: “We hear a great deal of the violation by Herr Hitler of the Treaty because he returned his own troops to his own frontier. You hear much less today of the violation by which the French Army, with the acquiescence of this country, crossed the frontier in order to annihilate German industry and in effect produced the present Nazi Party.”
In the House of Commons in October 1935, and again on 6 May 1936, Amery systematically attacked the use of force to sustain, the League of Nations. On the earlier occasion he said :
From the very outset there have been two schools of thought about the League and about our obligations under the League. There has been the school, to which I belong and to which for years, I believe, the Government of this country belonged, that regards the League as a great institution, an organization for promoting cooperation and harmony among the nations, for bringing about understanding, a permanent Round Table of the nations in conference ... provided always that it did not have at the background the threat of coercion. There is another school which thinks that the actual Articles of the Covenant, concocted in the throes of the peace settlement and in that atmosphere of optimism which led us to expect ten million pounds or more in reparations from Germany, constitute a sacrosanct dispensation, that they have introduced a new world order, and would, if they were only loyally adhered to, abolish war for good and all. The Covenant, I admit, as originally drafted, embodied both aspects and it was because the Covenant contained the Clauses that stood for coercion and for definite automatic obligations that the United States ... repudiated it. From that moment the keystone was taken out of the whole arch of any League of coercion.... The League is now undergoing a trial which may well prove disastrous to it. In this matter, as in other matters, it is the letter that killeth. The letter of the Covenant is the one thing which is likely to kill the League of Nations.
Amery then continued with a brief resume of the efforts to make the League an instrument of coercion, especially the Geneva Protocol. In regard to this, he continued: “The case I wish to put to the House is that the stand taken by His Majesty’s Government then and the arguments they used were not arguments merely against the Protocol, but arguments against the whole conception of a League based on economic and military sanctions.” He quoted Austen Chamberlain in 1925 and General Smuts in 1934 with approval, and concluded: “I think that we should have got together with France and Italy and devised some scheme by which under a condominium or mandate certain if not all of the non-Amharic provinces of Abyssinia should be transferred to Italian rule. The whole thing could have been done by agreement, and I have no doubt that such agreement would have been ratified at Geneva.”
This last statement was more then seven weeks before the Hoare-Laval Plan was made public, and six weeks after its outlines were laid down by Hoare, Eden, and Laval at a secret meeting in Paris (10 September 1935).
In his speech of 6 May 1936, Amery referred back to his October speech and demanded that the Covenant of the League be reformed to prevent sanctions in the future. Once again he quoted Smuts’s speech of November 1934 with approval, and demanded “a League which is based not upon coercion but upon conciliation.”
Between Amery’s two speeches, on 5 February 1936, Sir Arthur Salter, of the Group and All Souls, offered his arguments to support appeasement. He quoted Smuts’s speech of 1934 with approval and pointed out the great need for living space and raw materials for Japan, Italy, and Germany. The only solution, he felt, was for Britain to yield to these needs.
I do not think it matters [he said] if you reintroduce conscription and quadruple or quintuple your Air Force. That will not protect you. I believe that the struggle is destined to come unless we are prepared to agree to a fairer distribution of the world’s land surface and of the raw materials which are needed by modern civilized nations. But there is a way out; there is no necessity for a clash. I am sure that time presses and that we cannot postpone a settlement indefinitely.... I suggest that the way out is the application of those principles [of Christianity], the deliberate and conscious application of those principles to international affairs by this nation and by the world under the leadership of this nation.... Treat other nations as you would desire to be treated by them.
The liquidation of the countries between Germany and Russia could proceed as soon as the Rhineland was fortified, without fear on Germany’s part that France would be able to attack her in the west while she was occupied in the east. The chief task of the Milner Group was to see that this devouring process was done no faster than public opinion in Britain could accept, and that the process did not result in any out burst of violence, which the British people would be unlikely to accept. To this double purpose, the British government and the Milner Group made every effort to restrain the use of force by the Germans and to soften up the prospective victims so that they would not resist the process and thus precipitate a war.
The countries marked for liquidation included Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, but did not include Greece and Turkey, since the Group had no intention of allowing Germany to get down onto the Mediterranean “lifeline”. Indeed, the purpose of the Hoare-Laval Plan of 1935, which wrecked the collective-security system by seeking to give most of Ethiopia to Italy, was intended to bring an appeased Italy into position alongside England, in order to block any movement of Germany southward rather than eastward. The plan failed because Mussolini decided that he could get more out of England by threats from the side of Germany than from cooperation at the side of England. As a result of this fiasco, the Milner Group lost another important member, Arnold J. Toynbee, who separated himself from the policy of appeasement in a fighting and courageous preface to The Survey of International Affairs for 1935 (published in 1936). As a result of the public outcry in England, Hoare, the Foreign Secretary, was removed from office and briefly shelved in December 1935. He returned to the Cabinet the following May. Anthony Eden, who replaced him, was not a member of the Milner Group and considerably more to the public taste because of his reputation (largely undeserved) as an upholder of collective security. The Milner Group was in no wise hampered in its policy of appeasement by the presence of Eden in the Foreign Office, and the government as a whole was considerably strengthened. Whenever the Group wanted to do something which Eden’s delicate stomach could not swallow, the Foreign Secretary went off for a holiday, and Lord Halifax took over his tasks. Halifax did this, for example, during the first two weeks of August 1936, when the nonintervention policy was established in Spain; he did it again in February 1937, when the capable British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Eric Phipps, was removed at Ribbentrop’s demand and replaced by Sir Nevile Henderson; he did it again at the end of October 1937, when arrangements were made for his visit to Hitler at Berchtesgaden in November; and, finally, Halifax replaced Eden as Foreign Secretary permanently in February 1938, when Eden refused to accept the recognition of the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in return for an Italian promise to withdraw their forces from Spain. In this last case, Halifax was already negotiating with Count Grandi in the Foreign Office before Eden’s resignation statement was made. Eden and Halifax were second cousins, both being great-grandsons of Lord Grey of the Reform Bill of 1832, and Halifax’s daughter in 1936 married the half-brother of Mrs. Anthony Eden. Halifax and Eden were combined in the Foreign Office in order that the former could counterbalance the “youthful impetuosities” of the latter, since these might jeopardize appeasement but were regarded as necessary stage-settings to satisfy the collective-security yearnings of public opinion in England. These yearnings were made evident in the famous “Peace Ballot” of the League of Nations Union, a maneuver put through by Lord Cecil as a countermove to the Group’s slow-undermining of collective security. This countermove, which was regarded with extreme distaste by Lothian and others of the inner circle, resulted, among other things, in an excessively polite crossing of swords by Cecil and Lothian in the House of Lords on 16 March 1938.
During the period in which Halifax acted as a brake on Eden, he held the sinecure Cabinet posts of Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council (1935-1938). He had been added to the Cabinet, after his return from India in 1931, as President of the Board of Education, but devoted most of his time from 1931 to 1935 in helping Simon and Hoare put through the Government of India Act of 1935. In October 1933, the same group of Conservative members of Convocation who had made Lord Milner Chancellor of Oxford University in 1925 selected Lord Irwin (Halifax), for the same position, in succession to the late Lord Grey of Fallodon. He spent almost the whole month of June 1934 in the active functions of this position, especially in drawing up the list of recipients of honorary degrees. This list is very significant. Among sixteen recipients of the Doctorate of Civil Law, we find the following five names: Samuel Hoare, Maurice Hankey, W.G.S. Adams, John Buchan, and Geoffrey Dawson.
We have indicated that Halifax’s influence on foreign policy was increasingly important in the years 1934-1937. It was he who defended Hoare in the House of Lords in December 1935, saying: “I have never been one of those ... who have thought that it was any part in this dispute of the League to try to stop a war in Africa by starting a war in Europe. It was Halifax who went with Eden to Paris in March 1936 to the discussions of the Locarno Powers regarding the remilitarization of the Rhineland. That his task at this meeting was to act as a brake on Eden’s relatively large respect for the sanctity of international obligations is admitted by Lord Halifax’s authorized biographer. It was Halifax, as we have seen, who inaugurated the nonintervention policy in Spain in August 1936. And it was Halifax who opened the third and last stage of appeasement in November 1937 by his visit to Hitler in Berchtesgaden.
It is probable that the groundwork for Halifax’s visit to Hitler had been laid by the earlier visits of Lords Lothian and Londonderry to the same host, but our knowledge of these earlier events is too scanty to be certain. Of Halifax’s visit, the story is now clear, as a result of the publication of the German Foreign Office memorandum on the subject and Keith Feiling’s publication of some of the letters from Neville Chamberlain to his sister. The visit was arranged by Halifax himself, early in November 1937, at a time when he was Acting Foreign Secretary, Eden being absent in Brussels at a meeting of signers of the Nine-Power Pacific Treaty of 1922. As a result, Halifax had a long conversation with Hitler on 19 November 1937 in which, whatever may have been Halifax’s intention, Hitler’s government became convinced of three things: (a) that Britain regarded Germany as the chief bulwark against communism in Europe; (b) that Britain was prepared to join a Four Power agreement of France, Germany, Italy, and herself; and (c) that Britain was prepared to allow Germany to liquidate Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland if this could be done without provoking a war into which the British Government, however unwillingly, would be dragged in opposition to Germany. The German Foreign Ministry memorandum on this conversation makes it perfectly clear that the Germans did not misunderstand Halifax except, possibly, on the last point. There they failed to see that if Germany made war, the British Government would be forced into the war against Germany by public opinion in England. The German diplomatic agents in London, especially the Ambassador, Dirksen, saw this clearly, but the Government in Berlin listened only to the blind and conceited ignorance of Ribbentrop. As dictators themselves, unfamiliar with the British social or constitutional systems, the German rulers assumed that the willingness of the British Government to accept the liquidation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland implied that the British Government would never go to war to prevent this liquidation. They did not see that the British Government might have to declare war to stay in office if public opinion in Britain were sufficiently aroused. The British Government saw this difficulty and as a last resort were prepared to declare war but not to wage war on Germany. This distinction was not clear to the Germans and was not accepted by the inner core of the Milner Group. It was, however, accepted by the other elements in the government, like Chamberlain himself, and by much of the second circle of the Milner Group, including Simon, Hoare, and probably Halifax. It was this which resulted in the “phony war” from September 1939 to April 1940.
The memorandum on Halifax’s interview, quoting the Englishman in the third person, says in part:
In spite of these difficulties [British public opinion, the English Church, and the Labour Party] he and other members of the British Government were fully aware that the Führer had not only achieved a great deal inside Germany herself, but that, by destroying Communism in his country, he had barred its road to Western Europe, and that Germany therefore could rightly be regarded as a bulwark of the West against Bolshevism. ... After the ground had been prepared by an Anglo-German understanding, the four Great West-European Powers must jointly lay the foundation for lasting peace in Europe. Under no conditions should any of the four Powers remain outside this cooperation, or else there would be no end to the present unstable situation.... Britons were realists and were perhaps more than others convinced that the errors of the Versailles dictate must be rectified. Britain always exercised her influence in this realistic sense in the past. He pointed to Britain’s role with regard to the evacuation of the Rhineland ahead of the fixed time, the settlement of the reparations problem, and the reoccupation of the Rhineland. ... He therefore wanted to know the Führer’s attitude toward the League of Nations, as well as toward disarmament. All other questions could be characterized as relating to changes in the European order, changes that sooner or later would probably take place. To these questions belonged Danzig, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. England was only interested that any alterations should be effected by peaceful evolution, so as to avoid methods which might cause far-reaching disturbances, which were not desired either by the Führer or by other countries.... Only one country, Soviet Russia, stood to gain from a general conflict. All others were at heart in favour of the consolidation of peace.
That this attitude was not Halifax’s personal argument but the point of view of the government (and of the Milner Group) is perfectly clear. On arrival, Halifax assured the Germans that the purposes of his visit had been discussed and accepted by the Foreign Secretary (Eden) and the Prime Minister. On 26 November 1937, one week after Halifax’s conversation with Hitler, Chamberlain wrote to his sister that lie hoped to satisfy German colonial demands by giving them the Belgian Congo and Angola in place of Tanganyika. He then added: “I don’t see why we shouldn’t say to Germany, ‘Give us satisfactory assurances that you won’t use force to deal with the Austrians and Czechoslovakians, and we will give you similar assurances that we won’t use force to prevent the changes you want if you can get them by peaceful means.' ”
It might be noted that when John W. Wheeler-Bennett, of Chatham House and the Milner Group, wrote his book on Munich: Prologue to Tragedy, published in 1948, he relegated the last quotation to a footnote and suppressed the references to the Belgian Congo and Angola. This, however, was an essential part of the appeasement program of the Chamberlain group. On 3 March 1938, the British Ambassador in Berlin, Nevile Henderson, one of the Chamberlain group, tried to persuade Hitler to begin negotiations to carry out this plan but did not succeed. He repeated Lord Halifax’s statement that changes in Europe were acceptable to Britain if accomplished without “the free play of forces,” and stated that he personally “had often expressed himself in favour of the Anschluss.” In the colonial field, he tried to interest Hitler in an area in Africa between the 5th parallel and the Zambezi River, but the Fuhrer insisted that his interest was restricted to restoration of Germany’s 1914 colonies in Africa.
At the famous interview between Hitler and Schuschnigg in February 1938, Hitler told the Austrian that Lord Halifax agreed “with everything he [Hitler] did with respect to Austria and the Sudeten Germans.” This was reported in a “rush and strictly confidential” message of 16 February 1938 from the American Consul General in Vienna to Secretary of State Hull, a document released to the American press on 18 December 1948. Chamberlain and others made it perfectly clear, both in public and in private, that Britain would not act to prevent German occupation of Austria or Czechoslovakia. On 21 February 1938, during the Austrian crisis, John Simon said in the House of Commons, “Great Britain has never given special guarantees regarding Austrian independence.” Six days later, Chamberlain said: “We must not try to delude small nations into thinking that they will be protected by the League against aggression and acting accordingly when we know that nothing of the kind can be expected.” Five days after the seizure of Austria on 12 March 1938, the Soviet Union sent Britain a proposal for an international conference to stop aggression. The suggestion was rejected at once, and, on 20 March 1938, Chamberlain wrote to his sister: “I have therefore abandoned any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia or to the French in connection with her obligation to that country.”
When Daladier, the French Premier, came to London at the end of April 1938 to seek support for Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain refused and apparently, if we can believe Felling, put pressure on the French to compel the Czechoslovaks to make an agreement with Hitler. On 1 May, Chamberlain wrote to his sister in this connection: “Fortunately the papers have had no hint of how near we came to a break over Czechoslovakia.”
In a long report of 10 July 1938, Ambassador Dirksen wrote to Ribbentrop as follows:
In England the Chamberlain-Halifax Cabinet is at the helm and the first and most essential plank of its platform was and is agreement with the totalitarian States.... This government displays with regard to Germany the maximum understanding that could be displayed by any of the likely combinations of British politicians. It possesses the inner-political strength to carry out this task. It has come nearer to understanding the most essential points of the major demands advanced by Germany, with respect to excluding the Soviet Union from the decision of the destinies of Europe, the League of Nations likewise, and the advisability of bilateral negotiations and treaties. It is displaying increasing understanding of Germany’s demands in the Sudeten German question. It would be prepared to make great sacrifices to meet Germany’s other just demands—on the one condition that it is endeavoured to achieve these ends by peaceful means. If Germany should resort to military means to achieve these ends, England would without the slightest doubt go to war on the side of France.
This point of view was quite acceptable to the Milner Group. In the leading article for December 1937, The Round Table examined the German question at some length. In regard to the colonial problem, it contrasted two points of view, giving greater emphasis to “those who now feel that it was a mistake to have deprived Germany of all her colonies in 1918, and that Great Britain should contribute her share towards finding a colonial area—say, in central west Africa—which could be transferred to Germany under mandate. But they, too, make it a condition that colonial revision should be part of a final all-round settlement with Germany, and that the colonies should not be used as leverage for fresh demands or as strategic bases.” Later it said: “A majority would regard the abandonment of France’s eastern alliances as a price well worth paying for lasting peace and the return of Germany to the League.” It welcomed German rearmament, since this would force revision of the evil Treaty of Versailles. In this connection, the same article said: “The pressure of rearmament and the events of the last few years have at least had this effect, that the refusal of those who have benefited most by the peace settlement to consider any kind of change is rapidly disappearing; for forcible changes which they have been unable to prevent have already taken place, and further changes will certainly follow, especially in eastern Europe, unless they are prepared to fight a very formidable war to prevent them.” The article rejected such a war on the grounds that its “outcome is uncertain” and it “would entail objectionable domestic disasters.” In adding up the balance of military forces in such a war, the article significantly omitted all mention of Czechoslovakia, whose forces at that time were considerably stronger than Germany’s. It placed the French Army at two-thirds the size of Germany’s (which was untrue) and Britain at no more than two or three divisions. The point of view of The Round Table was not identical with that of the Chamberlain group (which intersected, through common members, with the second circle of the Milner Group). The Round Table, speaking for the inner circle of the Milner Group, was not nearly so anti-Russian as the Chamberlain group. Accordingly, it never regarded a collision between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as a practical solution of Europe’s problems. It did accept the idea of a four-power pact to exclude Russia from Europe, but it was not willing to allow Germany to expand eastward as she wished. The Milner Group’s misunderstanding of the Nazi system and of Germany itself was so great that they envisioned a stable situation in which Europe was dominated by a four-power pact, with Soviet Russia on one side and an Oceanic bloc of the British Commonwealth and the United States on the other. The Group insisted on rapid British rearmament and the building up of the Oceanic System because they had a lower opinion of Britain’s own powers than did the Chamberlain group (this idea was derived from Milner) and they were not prepared to allow Germany to go eastward indefinitely in the hope she would be satisfied by a war with Russia. As we shall see, the policies of the Milner Group and the Chamberlain group went jointly forward, with slight shifts of emphasis, until March 1939, when the Group began to disintegrate.
In the same article of December 1937 The Round Table said that the democracies must
make clear the point at which they are prepared to risk war rather than retreat.... During the last year or two The Round Table has criticized the popular dogma of “collective security” on two main grounds: that it meant fighting to maintain an out-of-date settlement, and that security depended, not merely on public opinion but on ability to bring effective military superiority to bear at the critical point. On the other hand, The Round Table is resolutely in favour of adequate defensive armaments and of a vigorous and if necessary defiant foreign policy at those points where we are sure that ... we can bring superior power effectively to bear. And for this purpose we consider that the nations of the Commonwealth should not only act together themselves, but should also work in the closest cooperation with all the democracies, especially the United States.
In February 1938, Lord Lothian, “leader” of the Group, spoke in the House of Lords in support of appeasement. This extraordinary speech was delivered in defense of the retiring of Sir Robert Vansittart. Sir Robert, as Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign Office from 1930 to 1938, was a constant thorn in the side of the appeasers. The opening of the third stage of appeasement at the end of 1937 made it necessary to get rid of him and his objections to their policy. Accordingly, he was “promoted” to the newly created post of Chief Diplomatic Adviser, and the Under Secretaryship was given to Sir Alexander Cadogan of the Cecil Bloc. This action led to a debate in February 1938. Lord Lothian intervened to insist that Sir Robert’s new role would not be parallel to that of the new Under Secretary but was restricted to advising only on “matters specifically referred to him by the Secretary of State, and he is no longer responsible for the day to day work of the Office.” From this point, Lothian launched into a long attack on the League of Nations, followed by a defense of Germany. In regard to the former, he expressed satisfaction that
the most dangerous aspect of the League of Nations—namely, the interpretation which has habitually been put upon it by the League of Nations Union in this country—is pretty well dead.... It seems to me that that [interpretation] is inevitably going to turn the League of Nations itself not into an instrument for maintaining peace but into an instrument for making war. That was not the original concept of the League at all. The original concept of the League definitely left the way open for alteration after six months’ examination even if it meant war.... I think the League of Nations now, at last, is going to have a chance of recovery, for the reason that this particular interpretation, which has been its besetting sin, the one thing which has led to its failure from the beginning, is now dead. ... Therefore I am more hopeful of the League today than I have been for a good long time, because it has ceased to be an instrument to try to perpetuate the status quo.
When Lothian turned to the problem of Germany, his arguments became even more ridiculous. “The fundamental problem of the world today is still the problem of Germany.... Why is Germany the issue ? In my view the fundamental reason is that at no time in the years after 1919 has the rest of the world been willing to concede any substantial justice or reasonable understanding to Germany, either when she was a Republic or since she has become a Totalitarian State.” There followed a long attack on the war guilt thesis as applied to 1914, or even to 1870. This thesis Lothian called “propaganda,” and from this false propaganda he traced all the cruel treatment given Germany since 1919. He disapproved of the Nazi Government’s methods inside Germany, but added: “I do not think there is any doubt that modern Germany is the result of the policy of the United States, whom I cannot absolve from responsibility, of ourselves, and of France; and in this matter the responsibility of the United States and ourselves is more than that of France for defaulting on the obligation to give France some security so that she could allow Germany to recover.”
It seems impossible that this could be the same man who was calling for the extirpation of “Prussianism” in 1908-1918 and who was to call for the same crusade as Ambassador in Washington in 1940.
In this same speech Lothian laid down what might be called the Milner Group solution to this German problem, 1938 model:
There is only one solution to this problem. You have got to combine collective justice with collective security. You have got to give remedies to those nations which are entitled to them.... You have got to be willing to concede to them-and one of them is Germany-alterations in the status quo and you have also got to incur obligations with other like-minded nations to resist changes which go beyond what impartial justice regards as fair.... When we are willing to admit that we are ourselves largely responsible for the tragedy that confronts us, for the fact that Germanv is the center of the world problem, and are willing to concede to Germany what a fair-minded and impartial authority would say was a fair solution of her problem, and if, in addition to that, we are willing to say, “We will meet aggression to secure more than this with the only means in which it can be met,” then I consider there is hope for the world.
The fallacy in all of this rests on the fact that every concession to Germany made her stronger, with no guarantee that she ever would stop; and if, after years of concessions, she refused to stop, she might be too strong to be compelled to do so. The Milner Group thesis was based not only on ignorance but also on logical deficiencies. The program of the Chamberlain group was at least more consistent, since it involved no effort to stop Germany at any point but aimed to solve the German problem by driving it into Russia. Such an “immoral” solution could not be acceptable to the Milner Group, so they should have had sense enough to stop Germany while she was weak.
Shortly after this speech, on 24 February 1938, Lothian intervened in the debate on Eden’s resignation to reject Eden’s point of view and defend Chamberlain’s. He rejected the idea that Britain should commit herself to support Czechoslovakia against Germany and criticized the President of Czechoslovakia for his failure to make concessions to Republican Germany. He then repeated his speech of the week before, the chief addition being a defense of the German remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936.
Four days after the seizure of Austria, Lothian again advised against any new pledges to anyone and demanded rearmament and national service. In regard to rearmament he said: “Unpreparedness and the belief that you are unwilling to accept that challenge or that you do not mean what you say, does contribute to war. That will remain to be a condition of the world until the nations are willing in some way to pool their sovereignty in a common federation.” All of these ideas of Lothian’s were explictly restated by him in a speech at Chatham House on 24 March 1938. He refuted the “war-guilt thesis,” condemned the Versailles settlement as “a very stiff Peace Treaty,” insisted on revision, blamed all the disasters of Europe on America’s withdrawal from the League in 1920, called the Hitler government a temporary “unnatural pathological state” solely caused by the stiff treaty and the failure to revise it, defended the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the seizure of Austria, condemned Czechoslovakia as “almost the only racially heterogeneous State left in Europe,” praised “nonintervention” in Spain, praised Chamberlain’s statement of the same day refusing to promise support to Czechoslovakia, and demanded “national service” as insurance that Hitler would not continue to use force after he obtained what he deserved in justice.
These arguments of Lothian’s were all supported by the Group in other ways. The Round Table in its leading articles of March 1938, September 1938, and March 1939 demanded “national service.” In the leading article of June 1938 it repeated all Lothian’s arguments in somewhat different words. These arguments could be summed up in the slogan “appeasement and rearmament.” Then it added:
Until the nations can be brought to the two principles of collective security already described, the best security for peace is that the world should be divided into zones within each of which one of the great armed Powers, or a group of them, is clearly preponderant, and in which therefore other Powers do not seek to interfere. Then there may be peace for a time. The peace of the 19th century rested on the fact that the supremacy of the British Navy kept the whole oceanic area free from general war. ... The vital question now arises whether in that same zone, to which France and Scandinavia must be added, it is not possible, despite the immense armaments of central Europe, Russia, and the Far East, for the democracies to create security, stability, and peace in which liberal institutions can survive. The oceanic zone in fact constitutes the one part of the world in which it is possible today to realise the ideals of the League of Nations.
From this point onward (early 1938), the Milner Group increasingly emphasized the necessity for building up this Oceanic bloc. In England the basic propaganda work was done through The Round Table and Lionel Curtis, while in the United States it was done through the Rhodes Scholarship organization, especially through Clarence Streit and Frank Aydelotte. In England, Curtis wrote a series of books and articles advocating a new federal organization built around the English-speaking countries. The chief work of this nature was his Civitas Dei, which appeared in three volumes in 1934-1937. A one-volume edition was issued in 1938, with the title The Commonwealth of God. The first two volumes of this work are nothing more than a rehash and expansion of the older work The Commonwealth of Nations (1916). By a superficial and frequently erroneous rewriting of world history, the author sought to review the evolution of the “commonwealth” idea and to show that all of history leads to its fulfillment and achievement in federation. Ultimately, this federation will be worldwide, but en route it must pass through stages, of which the chief is federation of the English-speaking peoples. Writing early in 1937, he advocated that the League of Nations be destroyed by the mass resignation of the British democracies. These should then take the initiative in forming a new league, also at Geneva, which would have no power to enforce anything but would merely form a kind of international conference. Since it would be foolish to expect any federation to evolve from any such organization as this, a parallel, but quite separate, effort should be made to create an international commonwealth, based on the example of the United States in 1788. This international commonwealth would differ from the League of Nations in that its members would yield up part of their sovereignty, and the central organization would function directly on individuals and not merely on states. This international commonwealth would be formed, at first, only of those states that have evolved furthest in the direction of obtaining a commonwealth form of government for themselves. It will be recalled that this restriction on membership was what Curtis had originally advocated for the League of Nations in The Round Table of December 1918. According to Curtis, the movement toward the Commonwealth of God can begin by the union of any two national commonwealths, no matter how small. He suggested New Zealand and Australia, or these two and Great Britain. Then the international commonwealth could be expanded to include India, Egypt, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia, France, Canada, the United States, and Ireland. That the chief obstacle to this union was to be found in men’s minds was perfectly clear to Curtis. To overcome this obstacle, he put his faith in propaganda, and the chief instruments of that propaganda, he said, must be the churches and the universities. He said nothing about the Milner Group, but, considering Curtis’s position in this Group and that Lothian and others agreed with him, it is not surprising that the chief source of this propaganda is to be found in those agencies controlled by the Group.
In the United States, the chief source of this propaganda was the organization known as Union Now, which was an offshoot of the Rhodes Scholarship network. The publicized originator of the idea was Clarence Streit, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in 1920 and League of Nations correspondent of The New York Times in 1929-1938. Mr. Streit’s plan, which was very similar to Curtis’s, except that it included fifteen countries to begin with, was first made public at a series of three lectures at Swarthmore College in February 1939. Almost simultaneously his book, Union Now, was launched and received wide publicity. Before we look at that, we might mention that at the time the president of Swarthmore College was Frank Aydelotte, the most important member of the Milner Group in the United States since the death of George Louis Beer. Dr. Aydelotte was one of the original Rhodes Scholars, attending Brasenose in 1905-1907. He was president of Swarthmore from 1921 to 1940; has been American secretary to the Rhodes Trustees since 1918; has been president of the Association of American Rhodes Scholars since 1930; has been a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation since 1922; and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations for many years. In 1937, along with three other members of the Milner Group, he received from Oxford (and Lord Halifax) the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law. The other three recipients who were members of the Group were Brand, Ormsby-Gore, and Sir Herbert Baker, the famous architect.
As soon as Streit’s book was published, it was hailed by Lord Lothian in an interview with the press. Shortly afterwards, Lothian gave it a favorable review in the Christian Science Monitor of 6 May 1939. The book was distributed to educational institutions in various places by the Carnegie Foundation and was greeted in the June 1939 issue of The Round Table as “the only way.” This article said: “There is, indeed, no other cure. ... In The Commonwealth of God Mr. Lionel Curtis showed how history and religion pointed down the same path. It is one of the great merits of Mr. Streit’s book that he translates the general theme into a concrete plan, which he presents, not for the indefinite hereafter, but for our own generation, now.” In the September 1939 issue, in an article headed “Union: Oceanic or Continental,” The Round Table contrasted Streit’s plan with that for European union offered by Count Coudenhove-Kalergi and gave the arguments for both.
While all this was going on, the remorseless wheels of appeasement were grinding out of existence one country after another. The fatal loss was Czechoslovakia. This disaster was engineered by Chamberlain with the full co-operation of the Milner Group. The details do not concern us here, but it should be mentioned that the dispute arose over the position of the Sudeten Germans within the Czechoslovak state, and as late as 15 September 1938 was still being expressed in those terms. Up to that day, Hitler had made no demand to annex the Sudeten area, although on 12 September he had for the first time asked for “self-determination” for the Sudetens. Konrad Henlein, Hitler’s agent in Czechoslovakia and leader of the Sudeten Germans, expressed no desire “to go back to the Reich” until after 12 September. Who, then, first demanded frontier rectification in favor of Germany ? Chamberlain did so privately on 10 May 1938, and the Milner Group did so publicly on 7 September 1938. The Chamberlain suggestion was made by one of those “calculated indiscretions” of which he was so fond, at an “off-the-record” meeting with certain Canadian and American newspaper reporters at a luncheon arranged by Lady Astor and held at her London house. On this occasion Chamberlain spoke of his plans for a four-power pact to exclude Russia from Europe and the possibility of frontier revisions in favor of Germany to settle the Sudeten issue. When the news leaked out, as it was bound to do, Chamberlain was questioned in Commons by Geoffrey Mander on 20 June but refused to answer, calling his questioner a troublemaker. This answer was criticized by Sir Archibald Sinclair the following day, but he received no better treatment. Lady Astor, however, interjected, “I would like to say that there is not a word of truth in it.” By 27 June, however, she had a change of heart and stated: “I never had any intention of denying that the Prime Minister had attended a luncheon at my house. The Prime Minister did so attend, the object being to enable some American journalists who had not previously met him to do so privately and informally, and thus to make his acquaintance.”
The second suggestion for revision of frontiers also had an Astor flavor, since it appeared as a leading article in The Times on 7 September 1938. The outraged cries of protest from all sides which greeted this suggestion made it clear that further softening up of the British public was urgently necessary before it would be safe to hand over Czechoslovakia to Hitler. This was done in the war-scare of September 15-28 in London. That this war-scare was fraudulent and that Lord Halifax was deeply involved in its creation is now clear. All the evidence cannot be given here. There is no evidence whatever that the Chamberlain government intended to fight over Czechoslovakia unless this was the only alternative to falling from office. Even at the height of the crisis, when all ways out without war seemed closed (27 September), Chamberlain showed what he thought of the case by telling the British people over the BBC that the issue was “a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”
To frighten the British people, the British government circulated stories about the strength of the German Army and Air Force which were greatly exaggerated; they implied that Germany would use poison gas at once and from the air, although this was quite untrue; they distributed gas masks and madly built trenches in London parks, although the former were needless and the latter worthless. On 23 September, the British advised the Czechoslovakian government to mobilize, although they had previously forbidden it. This was done to increase the crisis in London, and the fact that Göring’s air force allowed it to go through without attack indicates his belief that Germany did not need to fight. In fact, Göring told the French Ambassador on 12 September that he had positive assurance that Britain would not fight. As early as 1 September 1938, Sir Horace Wilson, Chamberlain’s alter ego, told the German charge d’affaires in London, Theodor Kordt, “If we two, Great Britain and Germany, come to agreement regarding the settlement of the Czech problem, we shall simply brush aside the resistance that France or Czechoslovakia herself may offer to the decision.”
The fraudulent nature of the Munich crisis appears throughout its history. We might mention the following: (1) the suspicious fashion in which the Runciman Mission was sent to Czechoslovakia, immediately after Hitler’s aide, Captain Wiedemann, visited Halifax at the latter’s home (not the Foreign Office) on 18 July 1938, and with the statement, which was untrue, that it was being sent at the desire of the Czechoslovaks; 13 (2) the fact that Runciman in Czechoslovakia spent most of his time with the Sudetens and put pressure on the government to make one concession after another to Henlein, when it was perfectly clear that Henlein did not want a settlement; (3) the fact that Runciman wrote to Hitler on 2 September that he would have a plan for a settlement by 15 September; (4) the fact that this Runciman plan was practically the same as the Munich settlement finally adopted; (5) the fact that Chamberlain made the war-scare over the Godesberg proposals and, after making a settlement at Munich, made no effort to enforce those provisions by which Munich differed from Godesberg, but on the contrary allowed the Germans to take what they wished in Czechoslovakia as they wished; (6) the fact that the government did all it could to exclude Russia from the settlement, although Russia was allied to both Czechoslovakia and France; (7) the fact that the government and the French government tried to spread the belief that Russia would not honor these commitments, although all the evidence indicated that she would; (8) the fact that Chamberlain had a tete-a-tete conference with Hitler at Berchtesgaden on 15 September, which lasted for three hours, and at which only Hitler’s private interpreter was present as a third party, and that this was repeated at Godesberg on 23 September; (9) the fact that the Czechoslovaks were forced to yield to Chamberlain’s settlement under pressure of ultimatums from both France and Britain, a fact that was concealed from the British people by omitting a crucial document from the White Paper of 28 September 1938 (Cmd. 5847).
Two additional points, concerned with the degree of German armaments and the position of the anti-Hitler resistance within Germany, require further elucidation. For years before June 1938, the government had insisted that British rearming was progressing in a satisfactory fashion. Churchill and others had questioned this and had produced figures on German rearmament to prove that Britain’s own progress in this field was inadequate. These figures were denied by the government, and their own accomplishments were defended. In 1937 and in 1938, Churchill had clashed with Baldwin and Chamberlain on this issue. As late as March 1938, Chamberlain said that British armaments were such as to make her an “almost terrifying power ... on the opinion of the world.” But as the year went on, the government adopted a quite different attitude. In order to persuade public opinion that it was necessary to yield to Germany, the Government pretended that its armaments were quite inadequate in comparison with Germany.” We now know, thanks to the captured papers of the German Ministry of War, that this was a gross exaggeration. These papers were studied by Major General C.F. Robinson of the United States Army, and analyzed in a report which he submitted to the Secretary of War in October 1947. This document, entitled Foreign Logistical Organizations and Methods, shows that all of the accepted estimates of German rearmament in the period 1933-1939 were gross exaggerations. From 1936 to the outbreak of war, German aircraft production was not raised, but averaged 425 planes a month. Her tank production was low and even in 1939 was less than Britain’s. In the first 9 months of 1939, Germany produced only 50 tanks a month; in the last 4 months of 1939, in wartime, Germany produced 247 “tanks and self-propelled guns,” compared to a British production of 314 tanks in the same period. At the time of the Munich crisis, Germany had 35 infantry and 4 motorized divisions, none of them fully manned or equipped. This was no more than Czechoslovakia had alone. Moreover, the Czech Army was better trained, had far better equipment, and had better morale and better fortifications. As an example of this point, we might mention that the Czech tank was of 38 tons, while the Germans, before 1938, had no tank over 10 tons. During 1938 they brought into production the Mark III tank of less than 20 tons, and in 1939 brought into production the Mark IV of 23 tons. Up to September 1939, the German Army had obtained only 300 tanks of the Mark III and Mark IV types together. Most of these were delivered during 1939. In comparison, the Germans captured in Czechoslovakia, in March 1939, 469 of the superior Czech tanks. At the same time they captured 1500 planes (of which 500 were first-line), 43,000 machineguns, and over 1 million rifles. These figures are comparable with what Germany had at Munich, and at that time, if the British government had desired, Germany would have been facing France, Britain, and Russia, as well as Czechoslovakia.
It should perhaps be mentioned that up to September 1939 the German Navy had acquired only 53 submarines during the Hitler regime. No economic mobilization for war had been made and no reserve stocks built up. When the war began, in September 1939, Germany had ammunition for 6 weeks, and the air force had bombs for 3 months at the rate of expenditure experienced during the Polish campaign. At that time the Air Force consisted of 1000 bombers and 1050 fighters. In contrast, the British air program of May 1938 planned to provide Britain with a first-line force of 2370 planes; this program was stepped up in 1939. Under it, Britain produced almost 3000 military planes in 1938 and about 8000 in 1939. The German figures for planes produced in these 2 years are 5235 and 8295, but these are figures for all planes produced in the country, including civil as well as military airplanes. As Hanson Baldwin put it, “Up until 1940, at least, Germany’s production did not markedly outstrip Britain’s.” It might also be mentioned that British combat planes were of better quality.
We have no way of knowing if the Chamberlain government knew these facts. It should have known them. At the least, it should not have deluged its own people with untrue stories about German arms. Surprisingly, the British have generally refused to modify these stories, and, in order to perpetuate the fable about the necessity for the Munich surrender, they have continued to repeat the untrue propaganda stories of 1937-1939 regarding German armaments. This is as true of the critics of Munich as of its defenders. Both have adopted the version that Britain yielded to superior and overwhelming force at Munich. They have done this even though this story is untrue and they are in a position to know that it is untrue. For example, Winston Churchill, in his war memoirs, repeats the old stories about German rearmament, although he has been writing two years or more after the Reichswehr archives were captured. For this he was criticized by Hanson Baldwin in The New York Times of 9 May 1948. In his recent book, Munich : Prologue to Tragedy, J.W. Wheeler-Bennett, the British editor of the captured papers of the German Foreign Ministry, accepts the old propaganda tales of German rearmament as axiomatic, and accordingly does not even discuss the subject. He merely tells his readers: “By the close of 1937 Germany’s preparedness for war was complete. The preference for guns rather than for butter had brought forth results. Her rearmament had reached its apogee and could hold that peak level for a certain time. Her economy was geared to a strict regime of rationing and output on a war level.” None of this was true, and Mr. Wheeler-Bennett should have examined the evidence. If he had, he would not have been so severe on what he calls Professor Frederick Schumann’s “fantastic theory of the 'Pre-Munich Plot.’ ”
The last piece of evidence which we might mention to support the theory—not of a plot, perhaps, but that the Munich surrender was unnecessary and took place because Chamberlain and his associates wanted to dismember Czechoslovakia—is even more incriminating. As a result of the inadequate rearmament of Germany, a group of conservatives within the regime formed a plot to liquidate Hitler and his close supporters if it appeared that his policy in Czechoslovakia would result in war. This group, chiefly army officers, included men on the highest level of government. In the group were Colonel General Ludwig Beck (Chief of the General Staff), Field Marshal von Witzleben, General Georg Thomas, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (Mayor of Leipzig in 1930-1936), Ulrich von Hassell (ex-Ambassador to Italy), Johannes Popitz (Prussian Minister of Finance), and Paul Schmidt (Hitler’s private interpreter). This group formed a plot to kill Hitler and remove the Nazis from power. The date was set eventually for 28 September 1938. Lord Halifax, on 5 September 1938, was informed of the plot by Theodore Kordt, the German charge d’affaires in London, whose brother, Erich Kordt, chief of Ribbentrop’s office in the Foreign Ministry, was one of the conspirators. The message which Kordt gave to Halifax begged the British government to stand fast with Czechoslovakia in the Sudeten crisis and to make perfectly clear that Britain would go to war if Germany violated Czechoslovakian territory. The plot was canceled at noon on 28 September, when the news reached Berlin that Chamberlain was going to Munich. It was this plot which eventually, after many false starts, reached fruition in the attempt to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944.
There can be little doubt that the Milner Group knew of these anti-Nazi plots within Germany. Several of the plotters were former Rhodes Scholars and were in touch with members of the inner circle of the Milner Group in the period up to 1943, if not later. One of the leaders of the anti-Hitler plotters in Germany, Helmuth von Moltke, was probably a member of the Milner Group as well as intellectual leader of the conspirators in Germany. Count von Moltke was the son of the German commander of 1914 and grandnephew of the German commander of 1870. His mother, Dorothy Rose-Innes, was the daughter of Sir James Rose-Innes, whom Milner made Chief Justice of the Transvaal in 1902. Sir James was a supporter of Rhodes and had been Attorney General in Rhodes’s ministry in 1890. He was Chief Justice of South Africa in 1914-1927 and was always close to the Milner Group. The von Moltkes were Christian Scientists, and Dorothy, as Countess von Moltke after 1905, was one of the persons who translated Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health into German. The younger Helmuth, son of Dorothy, and Count von Moltke after his father’s death in 1938, was openly anti-Nazi and came to England in 1934 to join the English bar. He visited Lionel Curtis, at his mother’s suggestion, and “was made a member of the family, rooms in Duke of York Street being put at his disposal, and Kidlington and All Souls thrown open to him at week-ends; the opportunities of contact which these brought with them were exploited to the full.... He was often in England until the summer of 1939, and in 1937 visited South Africa and the grandparents there to whom he was deeply attached.” This quotation, from The Round Table for June 1946, makes perfectly clear to those who can read between the lines that Moltke became a member of the Milner Group. It might be added that Curtis also visited the Rose-Innes family in South Africa while Helmuth was there in 1937.
Von Moltke kept in close contact with both Curtis and Lothian even after the war began in 1939. He was made adviser on international law to the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces (OKW) in 1939 and retained this position until his arrest in 1944. The intellectual leader of the German Underground, he was the inspiration and addressee of Dorothy Thompson’s book Listen, Hans. He was the center of a group of plotters called the “Kreisau Circle,” named after his estate in Silesia. After his execution by the Nazis in January 1945, his connection with the Milner Group was revealed, to those able to interpret the evidence, in the June 1946 issue of The Round Table. This article extolled Moltke and reprinted a number of his letters. The same article, with an additional letter, was published as a pamphlet in Johannesburg in 1947.
Another plotter who appears to be close to the Milner Group was Adam von Trott zu Solz, a Rhodes Scholar who went to the Far East on a mission for the Rhodes Trust in 1936 and was in frequent contact with the Institute of Pacific Relations in the period 1936-1939. He seems to have attended a meeting of the Pacific Council in New York late in 1939, coming from Germany, by way of Gibraltar, after the war began. He remained in contact with the democratic countries until arrested and executed by the Nazis in 1944. It is not without significance that one of the chief projects which the plotters hoped to further in post-Hitler German foreign policy was a “federation of Europe in a commonwealth not unlike the British Empire.”
All of this evidence and much more would seem to support the theory of a “Munich plot”—that is, the theory that the British government had no intention or desire to save Czechoslovakia in 1938 and was willing or even eager to see it partitioned by Hitler, and only staged the war scare of September in order to make the British people accept this abuse of honor and sacrifice of Britain’s international position. The efforts which the British government made after Munich to conceal the facts of that affair would support this interpretation. The chief question, from our point of view, lies in the degree to which the Milner Group were involved in this “plot.” There can be no doubt that the Chamberlain group was the chief factor in the scheme. There is also no doubt that various members of the Milner Group second circle, who were close to the Chamberlain group, were involved. The position of the inner core of the Milner Group is not conclusively established, but there is no evidence that they were not involved and a certain amount of evidence that they were involved.
Among this latter evidence is the fact that the inner core of the Group did not object to or protest against the partition of Czechoslovakia, although they did use the methods by which Hitler had obtained his goal as an argument in support of their pet plan for national service. They prepared the ground for the Munich surrender both in The Times and in The Round Table. In the June 1938 issue of the latter, we read: “Czechoslovakia is apparently the danger spot of the next few months. It will require high statesmanship on all sides to find a peaceful and stable solution of the minorities problem. The critical question for the next six months is whether the four great Powers represented by the Franco-British entente and the Rome-Berlin axis can make up their minds that they will not go to war with one another and that they must settle outstanding problems by agreement together.” In this statement, three implications are of almost equal importance. These are the time limit of “six months,” the exclusion of both Czechoslovakia and Russia from the “agreement,” and the approval of the four-power pact.
In the September 1938 issue of The Round Table, published on the eve of Munich, we are told: “It is one thing to be able, in the end, to win a war. It is a far better thing to be able to prevent a war by a readiness for just dealing combined with resolute strength when injustice is threatened.” Here, as always before 1939, The Round Table by “justice” meant appeasement of Germany.
After the dreadful deed was done, The Round Table had not a word of regret and hardly a kind word for the great sacrifice of the Czechs or for the magnificent demonstration of restraint which they had given the world. In fact, the leading article in the December 1938 issue of The Round Table began with a severe criticism of Czechoslovakia for failure to reconcile her minorities, for failure to achieve economic co-operation with her neighbors, and for failure to welcome a Hapsburg restoration. From that point on, the article was honest. While accepting Munich, it regarded it solely as a surrender to German power and rejected the arguments that it was done by negotiation, that it was a question of self-determination or minority rights, or that Munich was any better or more lenient than the Godesberg demands. The following article in the same issue, also on Czechoslovakia, is a tissue of untruths except for the statement that there never was any real Sudeten issue, since the whole thing was a fraudulent creation engineered from Germany. Otherwise the article declares categorically: (1) that Czechoslovakia could not have stood up against Hitler more than two or three weeks; (2) that no opposition of importance to Hitler existed in Germany (“A good deal has been written about the opposition of the military commanders. But in fact it does not and never did exist.”); (3) “There is no such thing as a conservative opposition in Germany.” In the middle of such statements as these, one ray of sanity shines like a light: in a single sentence, The Round Table tossed onto the scrap heap its basic argument in support of appeasement, namely the “injustices of Versailles.” The sentence reads: “It is not Versailles but defeat that is the essential German grievance against the western Powers.” This sentence should have been printed in gold letters in the Foreign Office in London in 1919 and read daily thereafter.
It is worthy of note that this issue of The Round Table discussed the Czech crisis in two articles of twenty-seven pages and had only one sentence on Russia. This sentence spoke of the weakness of Russia, where “a new Tiberius had destroyed the morale and the material efficiency of the Russian Army.” However, in a separate article, dealing largely with Soviet-German relations, we find the significant sentences: “The Western democracies appear to be framing their policies on the principle of 'letting Germany go east.’ ... [Russia faces] the fundamental need of preventing a hostile coalition of the great Powers of western Europe.”
The final judgment of the Milner Group on the Munich surrender could probably be found in the December 1938 issue of The Round Table, where we read the following: “The nation as a whole is acutely aware that Anglo-French predominance, resulting from victory in the great war, is now a matter of history, that the conception of an international society has foundered because the principle of the rule of law was prostituted to perpetuate an impossible inequality.... The terms of the Versailles Treaty might have been upheld for some time longer by the consistent use of military power—notably when Germany remilitarized the Rhineland zone—but it was illogical to expect a defeated and humiliated foe to accept inferiority as the immutable concomitant of a nobler world, and it was immoral to try to build the City of God on lopsided foundations.”
As late as the March 1939 issue, The Round Table point of view remained unchanged. At that time it said: “The policy of appeasement, which Mr. Chamberlain represents and which he brought to what seemed to be its most triumphant moment at Munich, was the only possible policy on which the public opinion of the different nations of the Commonwealth could have been unified. It had already been unanimously approved in general terms at the Imperial Conference of 1937.”
The German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939 marked the turning point for the Milner Group, but not for the Chamberlain group. In the June 1939 issue, the leading article of The Round Table was entitled “From Appeasement to Grand Alliance.” Without expressing any regrets about the past, which it regarded as embodying the only possible policy, it rejected appeasement in the future. It demanded a “grand alliance” of Poland, Rumania, France, Britain, and others. Only one sentence referred to Russia; it said: “Negotiations to include Soviet Russia in the system are continuing.” Most of the article justified the previous policy as inevitable in a world of sovereign states. Until federation abolishes sovereignty and creates a true world government amenable to public opinion, the nations will continue to live in anarchy, whatever their contractual obligations may be; and under conditions of anarchy it is power and not public opinion that counts. ... The fundamental, though not the only, explanation of the tragic history of the last eight years is to be found in the failure of the English-speaking democracies to realize that they could prevent aggression only by unity and by being strongly armed enough to resist it wherever it was attempted.”
This point of view had been expressed earlier, in the House of Lords, by Lothian and Astor. On 12 April 1939, the former said:
One of Herr Hitler’s great advantages has been that, for very long, what he sought a great many people all over the world felt was not unreasonable, whatever they may have thought of his methods. But that justification has completely and absolutely disappeared in the last three months. It began to disappear in my mind at the Godesberg Conference. ... I think the right answer to the situation is what Mr. Churchill has advocated elsewhere, a grand alliance of all those nations whose interest is paramountly concerned with the maintenance of their own status-quo. But in my view if you are going to do that you have got to have a grand alliance which will function not only in the West of Europe but also in the East. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Snell has just said that in that Eastern alliance Russia may be absolutely vital. ... Nobody will suspect me of any ideological sympathy with Russia or Communism. I have even less ideological sympathy with Soviet Russia than I had with the Czarist Russia. But in resisting aggression it is power alone that counts.
He then went on to advocate national service and was vigorously supported by Lord Astor, both in regard to this and in regard to the necessity of bringing Russia into the “grand alliance.”
From this point onward, the course of the Milner Group was more rigid against Germany. This appeared chiefly as an increased emphasis on rearmament and national service, policies which the Group had been supporting for a long time. Unlike the Chamberlain group, they learned a lesson from the events of 15 March 1939. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that they were determined to resist any further acquisition of territory or economic advantage by Germany. Not at all. They would undoubtedly have been willing to allow frontier rectifications in the Polish Corridor or elsewhere in favor of Germany, if these were accomplished by a real process of negotiation and included areas inhabited by Germans, and if the economic interests of Poland, such as her trade outlet to the Baltic, were protected. In this the Milner Group were still motivated by ideas of fairness and justice and by a desire to avoid a war. The chief changes were two: (1) they now felt, as they (in contrast to Chamberlain’s group) had long suspected, that peace could be preserved better by strength than by weakness; and (2) they now felt that Hitler would not stop at any point based only on justice but was seeking world domination. The short-run goal of the Milner Group still remained a Continent dominated by Hitler between an Oceanic Bloc on the west and the Soviet Union on the east. That they assumed such a solution could keep the peace, even on a short-term basis, shows the fundamental naïvete of the Milner Group. The important point is that this view did not prohibit any modification of the Polish frontiers; not did it require any airtight understanding with the Soviet Union. It did involve an immediate rearming of Britain and a determination to stop Hitler if he moved by force again. Of these three points, the first two were shared with the Chamberlain group; the third was not. The difference rested on the fact that the Chamberlain group hoped to permit Britain to escape from the necessity of fighting Germany by getting Russia to fight Germany. The Chamberlain group did not share the Milner Group’s naive belief in the possibility of three great power blocs standing side by side in peace. Lacking that belief, they preferred a German-Russian war to a British-German war. And, having that preference, they differed from the Milner Group in their willingness to accept the partition of Poland by Germany. The Milner Group would have yielded parts of Poland to Germany if done by fair negotiation. The Chamberlain group was quite prepared to liquidate Poland entirely, if it could be presented to the British people in terms which they would accept without demanding war. Here again appeared the difference we have already mentioned between the Milner Group and Lloyd George in 1918 and between the Group and Baldwin in 1923, namely that the Milner Group tended to neglect the electoral considerations so important to a party politician. In 1939 Chamberlain was primarily interested in building up to a victorious electoral campaign for November, and, as Sir Horace Wilson told German Special Representative Wohl in June, “it was all one to the Government whether the elections were held under the cry `Be Ready for a Coming War’ or under a cry `A Lasting Understanding with Germany.' ”
These distinctions between the point of view of the Milner Group and that of the Chamberlain group are very subtle and have nothing in common with the generally accepted idea of a contrast between appeasement and resistance. There were still appeasers to be found, chiefly in those ranks of the Conservative Party most remote from the Milner Group; British public opinion was quite clearly committed to resistance after March 1939. The two government groups between these, with the Chamberlain group closer to the former and the Milner Group closer to the latter. It is a complete error to say, as most students of the period have said, that before 15 March the government was solidly appeasement and afterwards solidly resistant. The Chamberlain group, after 17 March 1939, was just as partial to appeasement as before, perhaps more so, but it had to adopt a pretense of resistance to satisfy public opinion and keep a way open to wage the November election on either side of the issue. The Milner Group was anti-appeasement after March, but in a limited way that did not involve any commitment to defend the territorial integrity of Poland or to ally with Russia.
This complicated situation is made more so by the fact that the Milner Group itself was disintegrating. Some members, chiefly in the second circle, like Hoare or Simon, continued as wholehearted, if secret, appeasers and became closer to Chamberlain. Halifax, who did not have to run for office, could speak his mind more honestly and probably had a more honest mind. He was closer to the Milner Group, although he continued to cooperate so closely with Chamberlain that he undoubtedly lost the prime minister’s post in May 1940 as a result. Amery, closer than Halifax to the inner core of the Group, was also more of a resister and by the middle of 1939 was finished with appeasement. Lothian was in a position between Halifax and Amery.
The point of view of the inner core can be found, as usual, in the pages of The Round Table. In the issue of September 1939, the leading article confessed that Hitler’s aim was mastery of the world. It continued: “In this light, any further accretion of German strength-for instance through control of Danzig, which is the key to subjection of all Poland-appears as a retreat from the ramparts of the British Commonwealth itself. Perhaps our slowness to realize these facts, or at least to act accordingly in building an impregnable defence against aggression in earlier years, accounts for our present troubles.” For the Milner Group, this constitutes a magnificent confession of culpability.
In the December 1939 issue of The Round Table, the whole tone has reverted to that of 1911-1918. Gone is the idea that modern Germany was the creation of the United States and Britain or that Nazism was merely a temporary and insignificant aberration resulting from Versailles. Instead the issue is “Commonwealth or Weltreich?” Nazism “is only Prussianism in more brutal shape.” It quotes Lord Lothian’s speech of 25 October 1939, made in New York, that “The establishment of a true reign of law between nations is the only remedy for war.” And we are told once again that such a reign of law must be sought in federation. In the same issue, the whole of Lothian’s speech was reprinted as a “document.” In the March 1940 issue, The Round Table harked back even further than 1914. It quoted an extensive passage from Pericles’s funeral oration in a leading article entitled “The Issue,” and added: “That also is our creed, but it is not Hitler’s.”
The same point of view of the Group is reflected in other places. On 16 March 1939, in the Commons, when Chamberlain was still defending the appeasement policy and refusing to criticize Germany’s policy of aggression, Lady Astor cried out to him, “Will the Prime Minister lose no time in letting the German Government know with what horror the whole of this country regards Germany’s action?”
The Prime Minister did not answer, but a Conservative Member, Major Vyvyan Adams, hurled at the lady the remark, “You caused it yourself.”
Major Adams was not a man to be lightly dismissed. A graduate of Haileybury and Cambridge, past president of the Cambridge Union, member of the Inner Temple Bar, an executive of the League of Nations Union, and a vice-president of Lord Davies’s New Commonwealth Society, he was not a man who did not know what was going on. He subsequently published two books against appeasement under the pseudonym “Watchman.”
Most of the members of the inner core of the Group who took any public stand on these issues refused to rake over the dead embers of past policy and devoted themselves to a program of preparedness and national service. The names of Amery, Grigg, Lothian, and The Times became inseparably associated with the campaign for conscription, which ultimately resulted in the National Service Act of 26 April 1939. The more aloof and more conciliatory point of view of Halifax can be seen in his speech of 9 June in the House of Lords and the famous speech of 29 June before the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The lingering overtones of appeasement in the former resulted in a spirited attack by Lord Davies, while Arthur Salter, who had earlier been plumping for a Ministry of All the Talents with Halifax as Premier, by the middle of the year was begging him, at All Souls, to meet Stalin face to face in order to get an alliance.
The events of 1939 do not require our extended attention here, although they have never yet been narrated in any adequate fashion. The German seizure of Bohemia and Moravia was not much of a surprise to either the Milner or Chamberlain groups; both accepted it, but the former tried to use it as a propaganda device to help get conscription, while the latter soon discovered that, whatever their real thoughts, they must publicly condemn it in order to satisfy the outraged moral feelings of the British electorate. It is this which explains the change in tone between Chamberlain’s speech of 15 March in Commons and his speech of 17 March in Birmingham. The former was what he thought; the latter was what he thought the voters wanted.
The unilateral guarantee to Poland given by Chamberlain on 31 March 1939 was also a reflection of what he believed the voters wanted. He had no intention of ever fulfilling the guarantee if it could possibly be evaded and, for this reason, refused the Polish requests for a small rearmament loan and to open immediate staff discussions to implement the guarantee. The Milner Group, less susceptible to public opinion, did not want the guarantee to Poland at all. As a result, the guarantee was worded to cover Polish “independence” and not her “territorial integrity.” This was interpreted by the leading article of The Times for 1 April to leave the way open to territorial revision without revoking the guarantee. This interpretation was accepted by Chamberlain in Commons on 3 April. Apparently the government believed that it was making no real commitment because, if war broke out in eastern Europe, British public opinion would force the government to declare war on Germany, no matter what the government itself wanted, and regardless whether the guarantee existed or not. On the other hand, a guarantee to Poland might deter Hitler from precipitating a war and give the government time to persuade the Polish government to yield the Corridor to Germany. If the Poles could not be persuaded, or if Germany marched, the fat was in the fire anyway; if the Poles could be persuaded to yield, the guarantee was so worded that Britain could not act under it to prevent such yielding. This was to block any possibility that British public opinion might refuse to accept a Polish Munich. That this line of thought was not far distant from British government circles is indicated by a Reuters news dispatch released on the same day that Chamberlain gave the guarantee to Poland. This dispatch indicated that, under cover of the guarantee, Britian would put pressure on Poland to make substantial concessions to Hitler through negotiations. According to Hugh Dalton, Labour M.P., speaking in Commons on 3 April, this dispatch was inspired by the government and was issued through either the Foreign Office, Sir Horace Wilson, John Simon, or Samuel Hoare. Three of these four were of the Milner Group, the fourth being the personal agent of Chamberlain. Dalton’s charge was not denied by any government spokesman, Hoare contenting himself with a request to Dalton “to justify that statement.” Another M.P. of Churchill’s group suggested that Geoffrey Dawson was the source, but Dalton rejected this.
It is quite clear that neither the Chamberlain group nor the Milner Group wanted an alliance with the Soviet Union to stop Hitler in 1939, and that the negotiations were not sincere or vigorously pursued. The Milner Group was not so opposed to such an agreement as the Chamberlain group. Both were committed to the four-power pact. In the case of the Chamberlain group, this pact could easily have developed into an anti-Russian alliance, but in the case of the Milner Group it was regarded merely as a link between the Oceanic Bloc and a Germanic Mitteleuropa. Both groups hated and despised the Soviet Union, but the Milner Group did not fear it as the Chamberlain group did. This fear was based on the Marxist threat to the British economic system, and the Milner Group was not wedded nearly as closely to that system as Chamberlain and his friends. The Toynbee-Milner tradition, however weak it had become by 1939, was enough to prevent the two groups from seeing eye to eye on this issue.
The efforts of the Chamberlain group to continue the policy of appeasement by making economic and other concessions to Germany and their efforts to get Hitler to agree to a four-power pact form one of the most shameful episodes in the history of recent British diplomacy. These negotiations were chiefly conducted through Sir Horace Wilson and consisted chiefly of offers of colonial bribes and other concessions to Germany. These offers were either rejected or ignored by the Nazis.
One of these offers revolved around a semi-official economic agreement under which British and German industrialists would form cartel agreements in all fields to fix prices of their products and divide up the world’s market. The Milner Group apparently objected to this on the grounds that it was aimed, or could be aimed, at the United States. Nevertheless, the agreements continued; a master agreement, negotiated at Dusseldorf between representatives of British and German industry, was signed in London on 16 March 1939. A British government mission to Berlin to help Germany exploit the newly acquired areas of eastern Europe was postponed the same day because of the strength of public feeling against Germany. As soon as this had died down, secret efforts were made through R.S. Hudson, secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, to negotiate with Helmuth Wohlthat, Reich Commissioner for the Four Year Plan, who was in London to negotiate an international whaling agreement. Although Wholthat had no powers, he listened to Hudson and later to Sir Horace Wilson, but refused to discuss the matter with Chamberlain. Wilson offered: (1) a non-aggression pact with Germany; (2) a delimitation of spheres among the Great Powers; (3) colonial concessions in Africa along the lines previously mentioned; (4) an economic agreement. These conversations, reported to Berlin by Ambassador Dirksen in a dispatch of 21 July 1939, would have involved giving Germany a free hand in eastern Europe and bringing her into collision with Russia. One sentence of Dirksen’s says: “Sir Horace Wilson definitely told Herr Wohlthat that the conclusion of a non-aggression pact would enable Britian to rid herself of her commitments vis-a-vis Poland.” In another report, three days later, Dirksen said: “Public opinion is so inflamed, and the warmongers and intriguers are so much in the ascendancy, that if these plans of negotiations with Germany were to become public they would immediately be torpedoed by Churchill and other incendiaries with the cry 'No second Munich !' ”
The truth of this statement was seen when news of the Hudson-Wohlthat conversations did leak out and resulted in a violent controversy in the House of Commons, in which the Speaker of the House repeatedly broke off the debate to protect the government. According to Press Adviser Hesse in the German Embassy in London, the leak was made by the French Embassy to force a break in the negotiations. The negotiations, however, were already bogging down because of the refusal of the Germans to become very interested in them. Hitler and Ribbentrop by this time despised the British so thoroughly that they paid no attention to them at all, and the German Ambassador in London found it impossible to reach Ribbentrop, his official superior, either by dispatch or personally. Chamberlain, however, in his eagerness to make economic concessions to Germany, gave to Hitler £6 million in Czechoslovak gold in the Bank of England, and kept Lord Runciman busy training to be chief economic negotiator in the great agreement which he envisaged. On 29 July 1939, Kordt, the German charge d’affaires in London, had a long talk with Charles Roden Buxton, brother of the Labour Peer Lord Noel-Buxton, about the terms of this agreement, which was to be patterned on the agreement of 1907 between Britain and Russia. Buxton insisted that his visit was quite unofficial, but Kordt was inclined to believe that his visit was a feeler from the Chamberlain group. In view of the close parallel between Buxton’s views and Chamberlain’s, this seems very likely. This was corroborated when Sir Horace Wilson repeated these views in a highly secret conversation with Dirksen at Wilson’s home from 4 to 6 p.m. on 3 August 1939. Dirksen’s minute of the same day shows that Wilson’s aims had not changed. He wanted a four-power pact, a free hand for Germany in eastern Europe, a colonial agreement, an economic agreement, etc. The memorandum reads, in part: “After recapitulating his conversation with Wohlthat, Sir Horace Wilson expatiated at length on the great risk Chamberlain would incur by starting confidential negotiations with the German Government. If anything about them were to leak out there would be a grand scandal, and Chamberlain would probably be forced to resign.” Dirksen did not see how any binding agreement could be reached under conditions such as this; “for example, owing to Hudson’s indiscretion, another visit of Herr Wohlthat to London was out of the question.” To this, Wilson suggested that “the two emissaries could meet in Switzerland or elsewhere.” The political portions of this conversation were largely repeated in an interview that Dirksen had with Lord Halifax on 9 August 1939.
It was not possible to conceal these activities completely from the public, and, indeed, government spokesmen referred to them occasionally in trial balloons. On 3 May, Chamberlain suggested an Anglo-German non-aggression pact, although only five days earlier Hitler had denounced the Anglo-German naval agreement of 1935 and the Polish-German non-aggression pact of 1934. As late as 28 August, Sir Nevile Henderson offered Germany a British alliance if she were successful in direct negotiations with the Poles. This, however, was a personal statement and probably went further than Halifax would have been willing to go by 1939. Halifax apparently had little faith in Chamberlain’s ability to obtain any settlement with the Germans. If, by means of another Munich, he could have obtained a German-Polish settlement that would satisfy Germany and avoid war, he would have taken it. It was the hope of such an agreement that prevented him from making any real agreement with Russia, for it was, apparently, the expectation of the British government that if the Germans could get the Polish Corridor by negotiation, they could then drive into Russia across the Baltic States. For this reason, in the negotiations with Russia, Halifax refused any multilateral pact against aggression, any guarantee of the Baltic States, or any tripartite guarantee of Poland. Instead, he sought to get nothing more than a unilateral Russian guarantee to Poland to match the British guarantee to the same country. This was much too dangerous for Russia to swallow, since it would leave her with a commitment which could lead to war and with no promise of British aid to her if she were attacked directly, after a Polish settlement, or indirectly across the Baltic States. Only after the German Soviet Non-aggression Pact of 21 August 1939 did Halifax implement the unilateral guarantee to Poland with a more formal mutual assistance pact between Britain and Poland. This was done to warn Hitler that an attack on Poland would bring Britain into the war under pressure of British public opinion. Hitler, as usual, paid no attention to Britain. Even after the German attack on Poland, the British government was reluctant to fulfill this pact and spent almost three days asking the Germans to return to negotiation. Even after the British were forced to declare war on Germany, they made no effort to fight, contenting themselves with dropping leaflets on Germany. We now know that the German generals had moved so much of their forces to the east that they were gravely worried at the effects which might follow an Allied attack on western Germany or even an aerial bombing of the Ruhr.
In these events of 1939, the Milner Group took little part. They must have known of the negotiations with Germany and probably did not disapprove of them, but they had little faith in them and by the early summer of 1939 were probably convinced that war with Germany was inevitable in the long run. In this view Halifax probably shared, but other former members of the Group, such as Hoare and Simon, by now were completely in the Chamberlain group and can no longer be regarded as members of the Milner Group. From June 1939 to May 1940, the fissure between the Milner Group and the Chamberlain government became wider.
From the outbreak of war, the Milner Group were determined to fight the war against Germany; the Chamberlain group, on the other hand, were very reluctant to fight Germany, preferring to combine a declared but unfought war with Germany with a fought but undeclared war with Russia. The excuse for this last arose from the Russian pressure on Finland for bases to resist a future German attack. The Russian attack on Finland began on the last day of November 1939; by 27 December, the British and French were putting pressure on Sweden to join them in action to support the Finns. In these notes, which have been published by the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the Western Powers stated that they intended to send men, equipment, and money to Finland. By February 1940, the Western Powers had plans for a force of 30,000 to 40,000 men for Finland and were putting pressure on Sweden to allow passage for this force across Scandinavia. By 2 March 1940, the British had a force of 100,000 men ready and informed the Swedish and Norwegian governments that “the force with its full equipment is available and could sail at short notice.” They invited the Scandinavian countries to receive Allied missions to make all the necessary preparations for the transit. The note to Norway, in an additional passage, said that forces would be sent to the Norwegian ports within four days of receiving permission, and the transit itself could begin on 20 March. On 12 March the Allies sent to the Scandinavian countries a formal request for right of transit. It was refused. Before anything further could be done, Finland collapsed and made peace with Russia. On 5 April, Halifax sent a very threatening note to the Scandinavian countries. It said in part:
. . . considering, in consultation with the French Government, the circumstances attending the termination of the war between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Finland and the attitude adopted by the Swedish Government at that time ... they feel therefore that the time has come to notify the Swedish Government frankly of certain vital interests and requirements which the Allied Governments intend to assert and defend by whatever measure they may think necessary. The vital interests and the requirements which the Allied Governments wish to bring to the notice of the Swedish Government are the following: (a) The Allied Governments cannot acquiesce in any further attack on Finland by either the Soviet or German Governments. In the event therefore, of such an attack taking place, any refusal by the Swedish Government to facilitate the efforts of the Allied Governments to come to the assistance of Finland in whatever manner they may think fit, and still more any attempt to prevent such assistance would be considered by the Allied Governments as endangering their vital interests.... (c) Any attempt by the Soviet Government to obtain from Norway a footing on the Atlantic seaboard would be contrary to the vital interests of the Allied Governments.”
The Swedish Foreign Minister expressed his government’s astonishment at this note and its determination to decide such questions for itself and to preserve Sweden’s neutrality in the future as it had been preserved in the past.
It is not clear what was the attitude of the Milner Group toward this effort to open