THE MIRRORS OF DOWNING STREET
SOME POLITICAL REFLECTIONS
BY A GENTLEMAN WITH A DUSTER (Harold Begbie)
"Right and wrong are in the nature of things. They are not words and phrases. They are in the nature of things, and if you transgress the laws laid down, imposed by the nature of things, depend upon it you will pay the penalty."
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK AND LONDON The Knickerbocker Press 1921
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS
Printed in the United States of America
America and England have worked and fought together and have brought to a successful conclusion the great war in defence of civilization against a military imperialism which was threatening to dominate the world. They have now responsibilities together in connection with the measures needed to assure the continued peace of the world and to secure, particularly for the smaller states and for communities not in a position to become independent nations, the protection of their liberties, to which they have as assured a right as that asserted by a state of first importance which can support its claims with great armies.
In this work of helping to adjust the present urgent problems of the world, England is demanding cooperation from America. America could not if she would, and would not if she could, escape her responsibilities, as the strongest nation in the world, a nation standing for the rights of men, for leadership in the family of nations. With these joint responsibilities resting upon England and America, the personalities of the men who have during the past few years had in their hands the direction of the affairs of the United Kingdom and of the great British Commonwealth must possess an assured interest for every intelligent American.
The clever author of The Mirrors of Downing Street has brought together a series of critical and biographical studies, presented as "reflections" from the mirror in the Imperial council chamber, of thirteen typical Britons who have done noteworthy work during the years of the war and who are now grappling with the problems of the peace. The name of the author is not given, but he is evidently one who has had intimate personal association with the statesmen and administrators whose characters he presents. These analyses are not always sympathetic, and we are not prepared to say that they will be accepted as final. They are, however, based upon full knowledge of the conditions and a close personal study of the men. Intelligent Americans will be interested in the opinions held by a clear-headed, capable English writer of the characters of leaders like Mr. Asquith, Lloyd George, Mr. Balfour, Lord Robert Cecil, Winston Churchill, and others, and they will find in these pages first-hand information and clever and incisive studies of noteworthy men whose influence has counted, and is still to count, in shaping the history of Britain and of the world.
NEW YORK, December, 1920.
Let me say that I hope I have not betrayed any confidences in these sketches.
Public men must expect criticism, and no criticism is so good for them, and therefore for the State, as criticism of character; but their position is difficult, and they may justly complain when those to whom they have spoken in the candour of private conversation make use of such confidences for a public purpose.
If here and there I have in any degree approached this offence, let me urge two excuses. First, inspired by a pure purpose I might very easily have said far more than I have said: and, second, my purpose is neither to grind my own axe (as witness my anonymity) nor to inflict personal pain (as witness my effort to be just in all cases), but truly to raise the tone of our public life.
It is the conviction that the tone of our public life is low, and that this low tone is reacting disastrously in many directions, which has set me about these studies in political personality.
There is too much dust on the mirrors of Downing Street for our public men to see themselves as others see them. Some of that dust is from the war; some of it is the old-fashioned political dust intended for the eyes of the public; but I think that the worst of all hindrances to true vision is breathed on the mirrors by those self-regarding public men in whom principle is crumbling and moral earnestness is beginning to moulder. One would wipe away those smears.
My duster is honest cotton; the hand that holds it is at least clean; and the energy of the rubbing is inspired solely by the hope that such labour may be of some benefit to my country.
I think our statesmen may be better servants of the great nation they have the honour to serve if they see themselves as others see them—others who are not political adversaries, and who are more interested in the moral and intellectual condition of the State than in the fortunes of its parties.
No man can ever be worthy of England; but we must be anxious when the heart and centre of public service are not an earnest desire to be as worthy of her as possible.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE v
I.—MR. LLOYD GEORGE 1
II.—LORD CARNOCK 19
III.—LORD FISHER 29
IV.—MR. ASQUITH 39
V.—LORD NORTHCLIFFE 49
VI.—MR. ARTHUR BALFOUR 59
VII.—LORD KITCHENER 71
VIII.—LORD ROBERT CECIL 85
IX.—MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL 97
X.—LORD HALDANE 109
XI.—LORD RHONDDA 123
XII.—LORD INVERFORTH 135
XIII.—LORD LEVERHULME 151
RT. HON. DAVID LLOYD GEORGE Frontispiece
LORD CARNOCK 20
BARON FISHER 30
RT. HON. HERBERT HENRY ASQUITH 40
LORD NORTHCLIFFE 50
RT. HON. ARTHUR JAMES BALFOUR 60
LORD KITCHENER 72
LORD ROBERT CECIL 86
RT. HON. WINSTON CHURCHILL 98
RT. HON. RICHARD BURDON HALDANE 110
LORD RHONDDA 124
LORD INVERFORTH 136
LORD LEVERHULME 152
MR. LLOYD GEORGE
THE RT. HON. DAVID LLOYD GEORGE
Born, Manchester, 1863; son of the late Wm. George, Master of the Hope Street Unitarian Schools, Liverpool. Educated in a Welsh Church School and under tutors. By profession a solicitor. President of the Board of Trade, 1905-8; Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1908-15; Minister of Munitions, 1915-16; Secretary for War, 1916; Prime Minister, 1916-20.
MR. LLOYD GEORGE
"And wars, like mists that rise against the sun, Made him but greater seem, not greater grow."
If you think about it, no one since Napoleon has appeared on the earth who attracts so universal an interest as Mr. Lloyd George. This is a rather startling thought.
It is significant, I think, how completely a politician should overshadow all the great soldiers and sailors charged with their nation's very life in the severest and infinitely the most critical military struggle of man's history.
A democratic age, lacking in colour, and antipathetic to romance, somewhat obscures for us the pictorial achievement of this remarkable figure. He lacks only a crown, a robe, and a gilded chair easily to outshine in visible picturesqueness the great Emperor. His achievement, when we consider what hung upon it, is greater than Napoleon's, the narrative of his origin more romantic, his character more complex. And yet who does not feel the greatness of Napoleon?—and who does not suspect the shallowness of Mr. Lloyd George?
History, it is certain, will unmask his pretensions to grandeur with a rough, perhaps with an angry hand; but all the more because of this unmasking posterity will continue to crowd about the exposed hero asking, and perhaps for centuries continuing to ask, questions concerning his place in the history of the world. "How came it, man of straw, that in Armageddon there was none greater than you?"
The coldest-blooded amongst us, Mr. Massingham of The Nation for example, must confess that it was a moment rich in the emotion which bestows immortality on incident when this son of a village schoolmaster, who grew up in a shoemaker's shop, and whose boyish games were played in the street of a Welsh hamlet remote from all the refinements of civilization and all the clangours of industrialism, announced to a breathless Europe without any pomposity of phrase and with but a brief and contemptuous gesture of dismissal the passing away from the world's stage of the Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns—those ancient, long glorious, and most puissant houses whose history for an aeon was the history of Europe.
Such topsy-turvydom, such historical anarchy, tilts the figure of Mr. Lloyd George into a salience so conspicuous that for a moment one is tempted to confuse prominence with eminence, and to mistake the slagheap of upheaval for the peaks of Olympus.
But how is it that this politician has attained even to such super-prominence?
Another incident of which the public knows nothing, helps one, I think, to answer this question. Early in the struggle to get munitions for our soldiers a meeting of all the principal manufacturers of armaments was held in Whitehall with the object of persuading them to pool their trade secrets. For a long time this meeting was nothing more than a succession of blunt speeches on the part of provincial manufacturers, showing with an unanswerable commercial logic that the suggestion of revealing these secrets on which their fortunes depended was beyond the bounds of reason. All the interjected arguments of the military and official gentlemen representing the Government were easily proved by these hard-headed manufacturers, responsible to their workpeople and shareholders for the prosperity of their competing undertakings, to be impracticable if not preposterous.
At a moment when the proposal of the Government seemed lost, Mr. Lloyd George leant forward in his chair, very pale, very quiet, and very earnest. "Gentlemen," he said in a voice which produced an extraordinary hush, "have you forgotten that your sons, at this very moment, are being killed—killed in hundreds and thousands? They are being killed by German guns for want of British guns. Your sons, your brothers—boys at the dawn of manhood!—they are being wiped out of life in thousands! Gentlemen, give me guns. Don't think of your trade secrets. Think of your children. Help them! Give me those guns."
This was no stage acting. His voice broke, his eyes filled with tears, and his hand, holding a piece of notepaper before him, shook like a leaf. There was not a man who heard him whose heart was not touched, and whose humanity was not quickened. The trade secrets were pooled. The supply of munitions was hastened.
This is the secret of his power. No man of our period, when he is profoundly moved, and when he permits his genuine emotion to carry him away, can utter an appeal to conscience with anything like so compelling a simplicity. His failure lies in a growing tendency to discard an instinctive emotionalism for a calculated astuteness which too often attempts to hide its cunning under the garb of honest sentiment. His intuitions are unrivalled: his reasoning powers inconsiderable.
When Mr. Lloyd George first came to London he shared not only a room in Gray's Inn, but the one bed that garret contained with a fellow-countryman. They were both inconveniently poor, but Mr. Lloyd George the poorer in this, that as a member of Parliament his expenses were greater. The fellow-lodger, who afterwards became private secretary to one of Mr. Lloyd George's rivals, has told me that no public speech of Mr. Lloyd George ever equalled in pathos and power the speeches which the young member of Parliament would often make in those hungry days, seated on the edge of the bed, or pacing to and fro in the room, speeches lit by one passion and directed to one great object, lit by the passion of justice, directed to the liberation of all peoples oppressed by every form of tyranny.
This spirit of the intuitional reformer, who feels cruelty and wrong like a pain in his own blood, is still present in Mr. Lloyd George, but it is no longer the central passion of his life. It is, rather, an aside: as it were a memory that revives only in leisure hours. On several occasions he has spoken to me of the sorrows and sufferings of humanity with an unmistakable sympathy. I remember in particular one occasion on which he told me the story of his boyhood: it was a moving narrative, for never once did he refer to his own personal deprivations, never once express regret for his own loss of powerful encouragements in the important years of boyhood. The story was the story of his widowed mother and of her heroic struggle, keeping house for her shoemaking brother-in-law on the little money earned by the old bachelor's village cobbling, to save sixpence a week—sixpence to be gratefully returned to him on Saturday night. "That is the life of the poor!" he exclaimed earnestly. Then he added with bitterness, "And when I try to give them five shillings a week in their old age I am called the 'Cad of the Cabinet'!"
Nothing in his life is finer than the struggle he waged with the Liberal Cabinet during his days as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The private opposition he encountered in Downing Street, the hatred and contempt of some of his Liberal colleagues, was exceeded on the other side of politics only in the violent mind of Sir Edward Carson. Even the gentle John Morley was troubled by his hot insistences. "I had better go," he said to Mr. Lloyd George; "I am getting old: I have nothing now for you but criticism." To which the other replied, "Lord Morley, I would sooner have your criticism than the praise of any man living"—a perfectly sincere remark, sincere, I mean, with the emotionalism of the moment. His schemes were disordered and crude; nevertheless the spirit that informed them was like a new birth in the politics of the whole world. A friend of mine told me that he had seen pictures of Mr. Lloyd George on the walls of peasants' houses in the remotest villages of Russia.
But those days have departed and taken with them the fire of Mr. Lloyd George's passion. The laboured peroration about the hills of his ancestors, repeated to the point of the ridiculous, is all now left of that fervid period. He has ceased to be a prophet. Surrounded by second-rate people, and choosing for his intimate friends mainly the new rich, and now thoroughly liking the game of politics for its amusing adventure, he has retained little of his original genius except its quickness.
His intuitions are amazing. He astonished great soldiers in the war by his premonstrations. Lord Milner, a cool critic, would sit by the sofa of the dying Dr. Jameson telling how Mr. Lloyd George was right again and again when all the soldiers were wrong. Lord Rhondda, who disliked him greatly and rather despised him, told me how often Mr. Lloyd George put heart into a Cabinet that was really trembling on the edge of despair. It seems true that he never once doubted ultimate victory, and, what is much more remarkable, never once failed to read the German's mind.
I think that the doom that has fallen upon him comes in some measure from the amusement he takes in his mental quickness, and the reliance he is sometimes apt to place upon it. A quick mind may easily be a disorderly mind. Moreover quickness is not one of the great qualities. It is indeed seldom a partner with virtue. Morality appears on the whole to get along better without it. According to Landor, it is the talent most open to suspicion:
Quickness is among the least of the mind's properties, and belongs to her in almost her lowest state: nay, it doth not abandon her when she is driven from her home, when she is wandering and insane. The mad often retain it; the liar has it; the cheat has it: we find it on the racecourse and at the card-table: education does not give it, and reflection takes away from it.
When we consider what Mr. Lloyd George might have done with the fortunes of humanity we are able to see how great is his distance from the heights of moral grandeur.
He entered the war with genuine passion. He swept thousands of hesitating minds into those dreadful furnaces by the force of that passion. From the first no man in the world sounded so ringing a trumpet note of moral indignation and moral aspiration. Examine his earlier speeches and in all of them you will find that his passion to destroy Prussian militarism was his passion to recreate civilization on the foundations of morality and religion. He was Peace with a sword. Germany had not so much attempted to drag mankind back to barbarism as opened a gate through which mankind might march to the promised land. Lord Morley was almost breaking his heart with despair, and to this day regards Great Britain's entrance into the war as a mistake. Sir Edward Grey was agonizing to avert war; but Mr. Lloyd George was among the first to see this war as the opportunity of a nobler civilization. Destroy German militarism, shatter the Prussian tradition, sweep away dynastic autocracies, and what a world would result for labouring humanity!
This was 1914. But soon after the great struggle had begun the note changed. Hatred of Germany and fear for our Allies' steadfastness occupied the foremost place in his mind. Victory was the objective and his definition of victory was borrowed from the prize-ring. A better world had to wait. He became more and more reckless. There was a time when his indignation against Lord Kitchener was almost uncontrollable. For Mr. Asquith he never entertained this violent feeling, but gradually lost patience with him, and only decided that he must go when procrastination appeared to jeopardize "a knock-out blow."
Anyone who questioned the cost of the war was a timid soul. What did it matter what the war cost so long as victory was won? Anyone who questioned the utter recklessness which characterized the Ministry of Munitions was a mere fault-finder. I spoke to him once of the unrest in factories, where boys could earn L15 and L16 a week by merely watching a machine they knew nothing about, while the skilled foremen, who alone could put those machines right, and who actually invented new tools to make the new machines of the inventors, were earning only the fixed wage of fifty shillings a week. I thought this arrangement made for unrest and must prove dangerous after the war. So eager, so hot was his mind on the end, that he missed the whole point of my remark. "What does it matter," he exclaimed impatiently, "what we pay those boys as long as we win the war?"
And the end of it was the humiliation of the General Election in 1918. Where was the new world, then? He was conscious only of Lord Northcliffe's menace. Germany must pay and the Kaiser must be tried! There was no trumpet note in those days, and there has been no trumpet note since. Imagine how Gladstone would have appealed to the conscience of his countrymen! Was there ever a greater opportunity in statesmanship? After a victory so tremendous, was there any demand on the generosity of men's souls which would not gladly have been granted? The long struggle between capital and labour, which tears every state in two, might have been ended: the heroism and self-sacrifice of the war might have been carried forward to the labours of reconstruction: the wounds of Europe might have been healed by the charities of God almost to the transfiguration of humanity.
Germany must pay for the war!—and he knew that by no possible means could Germany be made to pay that vast account without the gravest danger of unemployment here and Bolshevism in Central Europe! The Kaiser must be tried!—and he knew that the Kaiser never would be tried!
Millennium dipped below the horizon, and the child's riding-whip which Lord Northcliffe cracks when he is overtaken by a fit of Napoleonic indigestion assumed for the Prime Minister the proportions of the Damoclesian sword. He numbered himself among the Tououpinambos, those people who "have no name for God and believe that they will get into Paradise by practising revenge and eating up their enemies."
I can see nothing sinister in what some people regard as his plots against those who disagree with him. He tries, first of all, to win them to his way of thinking: if he fails, and if they still persist in attacking him, he proceeds to destroy them. It is all part of life's battle! But one would rather that the Prime Minister of Great Britain was less mixed up in journalism, less afraid of journalism, and less occupied, however indirectly, in effecting, or striving to effect, editorial changes. His conduct in the last months of the war and during the election of 1918 was not only unworthy of his position but marked him definitely as a small man. He won the election, but he lost the world.
It is a great thing to have won the war, but to have won it only at the cost of more wars to come, and with the domestic problems of statesmanship multiplied and intensified to a degree of the gravest danger, this is an achievement which cannot move the lasting admiration of the human race.
The truth is that Mr. Lloyd George has gradually lost in the world of political makeshift his original enthusiasm for righteousness. He is not a bad man to the exclusion of goodness; but he is not a good man to the exclusion of badness. A woman who knows him well once described him to me in these words: "He is clever, and he is stupid; truthful and untruthful; pure and impure; good and wicked; wonderful and commonplace: in a word, he is everything." I am quite sure that he is perfectly sincere when he speaks of high aims and pure ambition; but I am equally sure that it is a relief to him to speak with amusement of trickery, cleverness, and the tolerances or the cynicisms of worldliness.
Something of the inward man may be seen in the outward. Mr. Lloyd George—I hope I may be pardoned by the importance and interest of the subject for pointing it out—is curiously formed. His head is unusually large, and his broad shoulders and deep chest admirably match his quite noble head; but below the waist he appears to dwindle away, his legs seeming to bend under the weight of his body, so that he waddles rather than walks, moving with a rolling gait which is rather like a seaman's. He is, indeed, a giant mounted on a dwarf's legs.
So in like manner one may see in him a soul of eagle force striving to rise above the earth on sparrow's wings.
That he is attractive to men of a high order may be seen from the devotion of Mr. Philip Kerr; that he is able to find pleasure in a far lower order of men may be seen from his closer friendships. It is impossible to imagine Mr. Gladstone enjoying the society of Mr. Lloyd George's most constant companion although that gentleman is a far better creature than the cause of his fortunes; and one doubts if Lord Beaconsfield would have trusted even the least frank of his private negotiations to some of the men who enjoy the Prime Minister's political confidence. Nor can Mr. Lloyd George retort that he makes use of all kinds of energy to get his work done, for one knows very well that he is far more at his ease with these third-rate people than with people of a higher and more intellectual order. For culture he has not the very least of predilections; and the passion of morality becomes more and more one of the pious memories of his immaturity.
Dr. Clifford would be gladly, even beautifully, welcomed; but after an hour an interruption by Sir William Sutherland would be a delightful relief.
M. Clemenceau exclaimed of him, lifting up amazed hands, "I have never met so ignorant a man as Lloyd George!" A greater wit said of him, "I believe Mr. Lloyd George can read, but I am perfectly certain he never does."
I detect in him an increasing lethargy both of mind and body. His passion for the platform, which was once more to him than anything else, has almost gone. He enjoys well enough a fight when he is in it, but to get him into a fight is not now so easy as his hangers-on would wish. The great man is tired, and, after all, evolution is not to be hurried. He loves his arm-chair, and he loves talking. Nothing pleases him for a longer spell than desultory conversation with someone who is content to listen, or with someone who brings news of electoral chances. Of course he is a tired man, but his fatigue is not only physical. He mounted up in youth with wings like an eagle, in manhood he was able to run without weariness, but the first years of age find him unable to walk without faintness—the supreme test of character. If he had been able to keep the wings of his youth I think he might have been almost the greatest man of British history. But luxury has invaded, and cynicism; and now a cigar in the depths of an easy-chair, with Miss Megan Lloyd George on the arm, and a clever politician on the opposite side of the hearth, this is pleasanter than any poetic vapourings about the millennium.
If only he could rise from that destroying chair, if only he could fling off his vulgar friendships, if only he could trust himself to his vision, if only he could believe once again passionately in truth, and justice, and goodness, and the soul of the British people!
One wonders if the angels in heaven will ever forgive his silence at a time when the famished children of Austria, many of them born with no bones, were dying like flies at the shrivelled breasts of their starving mothers. One wonders if the historian sixty years hence will be able to forgive him his rebuff to the first genuine democratic movement in Germany during the war. His responsibility to God and to man is enormous beyond reckoning. Only the future can decide his place here and hereafter. It is a moral universe, and, sooner or later, the judgments of God manifest themselves to the eyes of men.
One seems to see in him an illustrious example both of the value and perils of emotionalism. What power in the world is greater, controlled by moral principle? What power so dangerous, when moral earnestness ceases to inspire the feelings?
Before the war he did much to quicken the social conscience throughout the world; at the outbreak of war he was the very voice of moral indignation; and during the war he was the spirit of victory; for all this, great is our debt to him. But he took upon his shoulders a responsibility which was nothing less than the future of civilization, and here he trusted not to vision and conscience but to compromise, makeshift, patches, and the future of civilization is still dark indeed.
This I hope may be said on his behalf when he stands at the bar of history, that the cause of his failure to serve the world as he might have done, as Gladstone surely would have done, was due rather to a vulgarity of mind for which he was not wholly responsible than to any deliberate choice of a cynical partnership with the powers of darkness.
LORD CARNOCK, 1ST BARON (ARTHUR NICOLSON, 11TH BART.)
Born, 1849. Educ.: Rugby and Oxford; in Foreign Office, 1870-74; Secretary to Earl Granville, 1872-74; Embassy at Berlin, 1874-76; at Pekin, 1876-78; Charge, Athens, 1884-85; Teheran, 1885-88; Consul-General, Budapest, 1888-93; Embassy, Constantinople, 1894; Minister, Morocco, 1895-1904; Ambassador, Madrid, 1904-5; Ambassador, Russia, 1905-10; Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1910-16. Author of the History of the German Constitution, 1873.
"Usually the greatest boasters are the smallest workers. The deep rivers pay a larger tribute to the sea than shallow brooks, and yet empty themselves with less noise."—SECKER.
One evening in London I mentioned to a man well versed in foreign affairs that I was that night meeting Lord Carnock at dinner. "Ah!" he exclaimed, "the man who made the war."
I mentioned this remark to Lord Carnock. He smiled and made answer, "What charming nonsense!" I asked him what he thought was in my friend's mind. "Oh, I see what he meant," was the answer; "but it is a wild mind that would say any one man made the war." Later, after some remarks which I do not feel myself at liberty to repeat, he said: "Fifty years hence I think a historian will find it far more difficult than we do now to decide who made the war."
If Lord Carnock were to write his memoirs, not only would that volume help the historian to follow the immediate causes of the war to one intelligible origin, but it would also afford the people of England an opportunity of seeing the conspicuous difference between a statesman of the old school and a politician of these latter days.
When I think of this most amiable and cultivated person, and compare his way of looking at the evolution of human life with Mr. Lloyd George's way of reading the political heavens, a sentence in Bagehot's essay on Charles Dickens comes into my mind: "There is nothing less like the great lawyer, acquainted with broad principles and applying them with distinct deduction, than the attorney's clerk who catches at small points like a dog biting at flies."
No one could be less like the popular politician of our very noisy days than this slight and gentle person whose refinement of mind reveals itself in a face almost ascetic, whose intelligence is of a wide, comprehensive, and reflecting order, and whose manner is certainly the last thing in the world that would recommend itself to the mind of an advertising agent. But there is no living politician who watched so intelligently the long beginnings of the war or knew so certainly in the days of tension that war had come, as this modest and gracious gentleman whose devotion to principle and whose quiet faith in the power of simple honour had outwitted the chaotic policy and the makeshift diplomacy of the German long before the autumn of 1914.
This may be said without revealing any State secret or breaking any private confidence:
As Sir Arthur Nicolson, our Ambassador at St. Petersburg, Lord Carnock won for England, as no other man had done before him, the love of Russia. The rulers of Russia trusted him. He was their friend in a darkness which had begun to alarm them, a darkness which made them conscious of their country's weakness, and which brought to their ears again and again the rumbles of approaching storm. Lord Carnock, sincerely loving these people, received their confidence as one friend receives the confidence of another. His advice was honourable advice. He counselled these friends to set their house in order and to stand firm in the conviction of their strength. Their finances were a chaos, their army was disorganized; let them begin in those quarters; let them bring order into their finances and let them reorganize their army.
While he was at St. Petersburg, after a wide experience in other countries, he twice saw Russia humiliated by Germany. Twice he witnessed the agony of his Russian friends in having to bow before the threats of Prussia. Remember that the rulers of Russia in those days were the most charming and cultivated people in the world, whereas the Prussian as a diplomatist was the same Prussian whom, even as an ally of ours in 1815, Croker found "very insolent, and hardly less offensive to the English than to the French." The Russians felt those humiliations as a gentleman would feel the bullying of an upstart.
Lord Carnock was at the Foreign Office in July, 1914. He alone knew that Russia would fight. For the rest of mankind, certainly for the German Kaiser, it was to be another bloodless humiliation of the Russian Bear. Admiral von Tirpitz wanted war: Bethmann-Hollweg did not. The great majority of the German people, in whom a genuine fear of Russia had increased under the astute propaganda of the War Party, hoped that the sword had only to be flashed in Russia's face for that vast barbarian to cower once again. Few statesmen in Europe thought otherwise. Sir Edward Grey, I have good reason to think, did not consider that Russia would fight. He erred with that great number of educated Germans who thought the sword had only to be rattled a little more loudly in the scabbard for Russia to weaken, and for Germany to gain, without cost, the supreme object of her policy—an increasing ascendancy in the Balkans. But this time Russia was ready, and this time Lord Carnock knew Russia would fight. I am not sure that Lord Carnock was not the only statesman in Europe who possessed this knowledge—the knowledge on which everything hung.
It is easy for thoughtless people, either in their hatred or love of Bolshevism, to forget that the old Russia saved France from destruction and made a greater sacrifice of her noblest life than any other nation in the great struggle. The first Russian armies, composed of the very flower of her manhood, fought with a matchless heroism, and, so fighting, delivered France from an instant defeat.
Lord Carnock may justly be said to have prepared Russia for this ordeal—for a true friend helps as well as gives good advice. But it would be a total misjudgment of his character which saw in this great work a clever stroke of diplomatic skill.
Lord Carnock was inspired by a moral principle. He saw that Russia was tempting the worst passions of Germany by her weakness. He felt this weakness to be unworthy of a country whose intellectual achievements were so great as Russia's. He had no enmity at all against the Germans. He saw their difficulties, but regretted the spirit in which they were attempting to deal with those difficulties—a spirit hateful to a nature so gentle and a mind so honourable.
He had studied for many years the Balkan problem. He knew that as Austria weakened, Germany would more and more feel the menace of Russia. He saw, over and over again, the diplomacy of the Germans thrusting Austria forward to a paramount position in the Balkans, and with his own eyes he saw the Germans in Bulgaria and Turkey fastening their hold upon those important countries. If Russia weakened, Germany would be master of the world. A strong Russia might alarm Germany and precipitate a conflict, but it was the world's chief fortress against Prussian domination.
For the sake of Russia he worked for Russia, loving her people and yet seeing the dangers of the Russian character; hoping that a self-respecting Russia might save mankind from the horrors of war and, if war came, the worse horrors of a German world-conquest. This work of his, which helped so materially to save the world, was done with clean hands. It was never the work of a war-monger. No foreigner ever exercised so great an influence in Russia, and this influence had its power in his moral nature. I had this from M. Sazonoff himself.
Such a man as Lord Carnock could not make any headway in English political life. It is worth our while to reflect that the intelligence of such men is lost to us in our home government. They have no taste for the platform, the very spirit of the political game is repellent to them, and they recoil from the self-assertion which appears to be necessary to political advancement in the House of Commons. No doubt the intelligence of men like Mr. J.H. Thomas or Mr. William Brace, certainly of Mr. Clynes, is sufficient for the crudest of our home needs, sufficient for the daily bread of our political life; but who can doubt that English politics would be lifted into a higher and altogether purer region if men like Lord Carnock were at the head of things, to provide for the spirit of man as well as for his stomach?
More and more, I think, gentlemen will stand aloof from politics—I mean, gentlemen who have received in their blood and in their training those notions of graciousness, sweetness, and nobleness which flow from centuries of piety and learning. Only here and there will such a man accept the odious conditions of our public life, inspired by a sense of duty, and prepared to endure the intolerable ugliness and dishonesty of politics for the sake of a cause which moves him with all the force of a great affection. But on the whole it is probable that the political fortunes of this great and beautiful country are committed for many years to hands which are not merely over-rough for so precious a charge, but not near clean enough for the sacredness of the English cause.
Only by indirect action, only by a much more faithful energy on the part of Aristocracy and the Church, and a far nobler realization of its responsibilities by the Press, can the ancient spirit of England make itself felt in the sordid lists of Westminster. Till then he who crows loudest will rule the roost.
 Croker writes from Paris of a visit to St. Cloud, where he found Bluecher and his staff in possession: "The great hall was a common guard-house, in which the Prussians were drinking, spitting, smoking, and sleeping in all directions." Denon complained greatly of the Prussians and said he was "malheureux to have to do with a bete feroce, un animal indecrottable, le Prince Bluecher."
BARON FISHER, ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET (JOHN ARBUTHNOT FISHER)
Born, 1841; entered Navy, 1854; took part in 1860 in the Capture of Canton and the Peiho Forts; Crimean War, 1855; China War, 1859-60; Egyptian War and Bombardment of Alexandria, 1882; Lord of the Admiralty, 1892-97; Commander-in-Chief, North American Station, 1897-99; Mediterranean Station, 1899-02; Commander-in-Chief, 1903-1904; 1st Sea Lord, 1904-10; 1914-15; died, 1920.
"Look for a tough wedge for a tough log."
No man I have met ever gave me so authentic a feeling of originality as this dare-devil of genius, this pirate of public life, who more than any other Englishman saved British democracy from a Prussian domination.
It is possible to regard him as a very simple soul mastered by one tremendous purpose and by that purpose exalted to a most valid greatness. If this purpose be kept steadily in mind, one may indeed see in Lord Fisher something quite childlike. At any rate it is only when the overmastering purpose is forgotten that he can be seen with the eyes of his enemies, that is to say as a monster, a scoundrel, and an imbecile.
He was asked on one occasion if he had been a little unscrupulous in getting his way at the Admiralty. He replied that if his own brother had got in front of him when he was trying to do something for England he would have knocked that brother down and walked over his body.
Here is a man, let us be quite certain, of a most unusual force, a man conscious in himself of powers greater than the kindest could discern in his contemporaries, a man possessed by a daemon of inspiration. Fortunately for England this daemon drove him in one single direction: he sought the safety, honour, and glory of Great Britain. If his contemporaries had been travelling whole-heartedly in the same direction I have no doubt that he might have figured in the annals of the Admiralty as something of a saint. But unhappily many of his associates were not so furiously driven in this direction, and finding his urgings inconvenient and vexatious they resisted him to the point of exasperation: then came the struggle, and, the strong man winning, the weaker went off to abuse him, and not only to abuse him, but to vilify him and to plot against him, and lay many snares for his feet. He will never now be numbered among the saints, but, happily for us, he was not destined to be found among the martyrs.
He has said that in the darkest hours of his struggle he had no one to support him save King Edward. Society was against him; half the Admiralty was crying for his blood; the politicians wavered from one side to the other; only the King stood fast and bade him go on with a good heart. When he emerged from this tremendous struggle his hands may not have been as clean as the angels could have wished; but the British Navy was no longer scattered over the pleasant waters of the earth, was no longer thinking chiefly of its paint and brass, was no longer a pretty sight from Mediterranean or Pacific shores—it was almost the dirtiest thing to be seen in the North Sea, and quite the deadliest thing in the whole world as regards gunnery.
This was Lord Fisher's superb service. He foresaw and he prepared. Not merely the form of the Fleet was revolutionized under his hand, but its spirit. The British Navy was baptized into a new birth with the pea-soup of the North Sea.
When this great work was accomplished he ordered a ship to be built which should put the Kiel Canal out of business for many years. That done, and while the Germans were spending the marks which otherwise would have built warships in widening and deepening this channel to the North Sea, Lord Fisher wrote it down that war with Germany would come in 1914, and that Captain Jellicoe would be England's Nelson.
From that moment he lost something of the hard and almost brutal expression which had given so formidable a character to his face. He gave rein to his natural humour. He let himself go; quoted more freely from the Bible, asserted more positively that the English people are the lost tribes of Israel, and waited for Armageddon with a humorous eye on the perturbed face of Admiral Tirpitz.
In July, 1914, he was out of office. A telegram came to him from Mr. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, requesting to see him urgently. Lord Fisher refused to see him, believing that Mr. Churchill had jockeyed Mr. Reginald McKenna out of the Admiralty—Mr. McKenna who had most bravely, nay heroically, stood by the naval estimates in face of strong Cabinet opposition. On this ground he refused to meet Mr. Churchill. But a telegram from Mr. McKenna followed, urging him to grant this interview, and the meeting took place, a private meeting away from London. Mr. Churchill informed Lord Fisher of the facts of the European situation, and asked him for advice. The facts were sufficient to convince Lord Fisher that the tug-o'-war between Germany and England had begun. He told Mr. Churchill that he must do three things, and do them all by telegram before he left that room: he must mobilize the Fleet, he must buy the Dreadnoughts building for Turkey, and he must appoint Admiral Jellicoe Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet. To do either of the first two was a serious breach of Cabinet discipline; to do the last was to offend a string of Admirals senior to Admiral Jellicoe. Mr. Churchill hesitated. Lord Fisher insisted. "What does it matter," he said, "whom you offend?—the fate of England depends on you. Does it matter if they shoot you, or hang you, or send you to the Tower, so long as England is saved?" And Mr. Churchill did as he was bidden—the greatest act in his life, and perhaps one of the most courageous acts in the history of statesmanship. Lord Fisher said afterwards, "You may not like Winston, but he has got the heart of a lion."
Thus was England saved, and Germany doomed. Before war was declared the British Fleet held the seas, and in command of that Fleet was the quickest working brain in the Navy.
On one occasion, during the dark days of the war, I was lunching at the Admiralty with Lord Fisher, who had then been recalled to office. He appeared rather dismal, and to divert him I said, "I've got some good news for you—we are perfectly safe and Germany is beaten." He looked up from his plate and regarded me with lugubrious eyes. I then told him that Lord Kitchener had been down at Knole with the Sackvilles and had spent a whole day in taking blotting-paper impressions of the beautiful mouldings of the doors for his house at Broome. "Does that make you feel safe?" he demanded; and then, pointing to a maidservant at the sideboard, he added, "See that parlourmaid?—well, she's leaving; yesterday I spent two hours at Mrs. Hunt's registry office interviewing parlourmaids. Now, do you feel safe?"
His return to the Admiralty brought him no happiness—save when he sent Admiral Sturdee to sea to avenge the death of Admiral Cradock. He was perhaps too insistent on victory, a crushing and overwhelming victory, for a Fleet on which hung the whole safety of the Allies, and a Fleet which had experienced the deadly power of the submarine. He was certainly not too old for work. To the last, looking as if he was bowed down to the point of exhaustion by his labours, he outworked all his subordinates. As for energy, he would have hanged I know not how many admirals if he had been in power during the last stages of the war.
His experience of Downing Street filled him up to the brim with contempt for politicians. It was not so much their want of brains that troubled him, but their total lack of character. Only here and there did he come across a man who had the properties of leadership in even a minor degree: for the most part they had no eyes for the horizon or for the hills whence cometh man's salvation; they were all ears, and those ears were leaned to the ground to catch the rumbles of political emergencies.
To find men at the head of so great a nation with no courage in the heart, with no exaltation of captaincy in the soul, without even the decency to make sacrifices for principle, made him bitterly contemptuous. At first he could scarcely bridle his rage, but as years went on he used to say that the politicians had deepened his faith in Providence. God was surely looking after England or she would have perished years agone. In his old age he ceaselessly quoted the lines of William Watson:
"Time, and the Ocean, and some fostering star In high cabal have made us what we are";
and damned the politician with all the vigour of the Old Testament vernacular.
I have often listened to a minister's confidential gossip about Lord Fisher; nothing in these interesting confidences struck me so much as the self-satisfaction of the little minister in treating the man of destiny as an amusing lunatic.
THE RT. HON. HERBERT HENRY ASQUITH
Born at Morley, Yorkshire, 1852. Educ.: City of London School; Balliol College, Oxford; gained 1st class, Lit. Hum. 1874; Barrister Lincoln's Inn, 1876; Q. C. 1890; Home Sec'y, 1892-95; Ecclesiastical Commissioner, 1892-95; Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1905-8; Sec'y for War, 1914; 1st Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister, 1908-16; LL.D. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cambridge, Leeds, St. Andrews, and Bristol.
"Not to mention loss of time, the tone of their feelings is lowered: they become less in earnest about those of their opinions respecting which they must remain silent in the society they frequent: they come to look upon their most elevated objects as unpractical, or at least too remote from realization to be more than a vision or a theory: and if, more fortunate than most, they retain their higher principles unimpaired, yet with respect to the persons and affairs of their own day, they insensibly adopt the modes of feeling and judgment in which they can hope for sympathy from the company they keep."—JOHN STUART MILL.
Nothing in Mr. Asquith's career is more striking than his fall from power: it was as if a pin had dropped.
Great men do not at any time fall in so ignominious a fashion, much less when the fate of a great empire is in the balance.
The truth is that Mr. Asquith possesses all the appearance of greatness but few of its elements. He has dignity of presence, an almost unrivalled mastery of language, a trenchant dialectic, a just and honourable mind; but he is entirely without creative power and has outgrown that energy of moral earnestness which characterized the early years of his political life.
He has never had an idea of his own. The "diffused sagacity" of his mind is derived from the wisdom of other men. He is a cistern and not a fountain.
His scholarship has made no difference to scholarship. His moral earnestness has made no difference to morality. He acquired scholarship by rote, politics by association, and morality by tradition. To none of these things did he bring the fire of original passion. The force in his youth was ambition, and the goal of his energy was success. No man ever laboured harder to judge between the thoughts of conflicting schools; few men so earnest for success ever laboured less to think for themselves. He would have made a noble judge; he might have been a powerful statesman; he could never have been a great man as Mazzini, Bismarck, and Gladstone were great men.
There are reasons for suspecting his moral qualities. When he allowed Lord Haldane to resign from the Cabinet at the shout of a few ignorant journalists he sacrificed the oldest of his friends to political exigencies. This was bad enough; but what made it worse was the appearance of heroic courage he assumed in paddling to Lord Haldane's rescue long after the tide of abuse had fallen. During the time he should have spoken to the whole nation, during the time he should have been standing sword in hand at the side of his friend, he was in negotiation with Sir Edward Carson.
It is a mistake to say that he brought England into the war. England carried Mr. Asquith into the war. The way in which politicians speak of Mr. Asquith as having "preserved the unity of the nation" in August, 1914, is index enough of the degraded condition of politics. A House of Commons that had hesitated an hour after the invasion of Belgium would have been swept out of existence by the wrath and indignation of the people. Mr. Asquith was the voice of England in that great moment of her destiny, a great and sonorous voice, but by no means her heart. He kept faction together at a moment when it was least possible for it to break apart; but he did not lead the nation into war. It was largely because he seemed to lack assurance that Lord Haldane was sacrificed. The Tories felt that Mr. Asquith would not make war whole-heartedly: they looked about for a scapegoat; Lord Haldane was chosen for this purpose by the stupidest of the Tory leaders; and the bewildered Prime Minister, with no mind of his own, and turning first to this counsellor and then to that, sacrificed the most intellectual of modern War Ministers, called Sir Edward Carson, to his side, and left the British war machine to Lord Kitchener.
We must make allowance for the time. No minister in our lifetime was confronted by such a gigantic menace. Moreover, the Cabinet was not united. Mr. Asquith came out of that tremendous ordeal creditably, but not, I think, as a great national hero. As for his conduct of the war, it was dutiful, painstaking, dignified, wise; but it lacked the impression of a creative original mind. He did not so much direct policy and inspire a nation as keep a Cabinet together. One seemed to see in him the decorative chairman of a board of directors rather than the living spirit of the undertaking.
When the historian comes to inquire into the trivial consequences of Mr. Asquith's fall from power he will be forced, I think, to lift that veil which Mr. Asquith has so jealously drawn across the privacy of his domestic life. For although he ever lacked the essentials of greatness, Mr. Asquith once possessed nearly all those qualities which make for powerful leadership. Indeed it was said in the early months of the war by the most able of his political opponents that it passed the wit of man to suggest any other statesman at that juncture for the office of Prime Minister.
His judicial temperament helped him to compose differences and to find a workable compromise. His personal character won the respect of men who are easily influenced by manner. There was something about him superior to a younger generation of politicians—a dignity, a reticence, a proud and solid self-respect. With the one exception of Mr. Alfred Spender, a man of honour and the noblest principles, he had no acquaintance with journalism. He never gave anybody the impression of being an office-seeker, and there was no one in Parliament who took less pains to secure popularity. Above all things, he never plotted behind closed doors; never descended to treason against a rival.
Search as men may among the records of his public life they will fail to discover any adequate cause of his fall from power. He was diligent in office; he took always the highest advice in every military dispute; settled the chief difficulty at the War Office without offence to Lord Kitchener; he gave full rein to the fiery energy of Mr. Lloyd George; he was in earnest, but he was never excited; he was beset on every side, but he never failed to maintain the best traditions of English public life; he was trusted and respected by all save a clique. Even in the humiliation of the Paisley campaign he was so noble a figure that the indulgence with which he appeared to regard the rather violent aid of a witty daughter was accepted by the world as touchingly paternal—the old man did not so much lean upon the arm of his child as smile upon her high-spirited antics.
One must trespass upon the jealously guarded private life to discover the true cause of his bewildering collapse. Mr. Asquith surrendered some years ago the rigid Puritanism of early years to a domestic circle which was fatal to the sources of his original power. Anyone who compares the photographs of Mr. Asquith before and after the dawn of the twentieth century may see what I mean. In the earlier photographs his face is keen, alert, powerful, austere; you will read in it the rigidity of his Nonconformist upbringing, the seriousness of his Puritan inheritance, all the moral earnestness of a nobly ambitious character. In the later photographs one is struck by an increasing expression of festivity, not by any means that beautiful radiance of the human spirit which in another man was said to make his face at the age of seventy-two "a thanksgiving for his former life and a love-letter to all mankind," but rather the expression of a mental chuckle, as though he had suddenly seen something to laugh at in the very character of the universe. The face has plumped and reddened, the light-coloured eye has acquired a twinkle, the firm mouth has relaxed into a sportive smile. You can imagine him now capping a "mot" or laughing deeply at a daring jest; but you cannot imagine him with profound and reverend anxiety striving like a giant to make right, reason, and the will of God prevail.
Like Mr. Lloyd George, his supplanter, he has lost the earnestness which brought him to the seats of power. A domestic circle, brilliant with the modern spirit and much occupied in sharpening the wits with epigram and audacity, has proved too much for his original stoicism. He has found recreation in the modern spirit. After the day's work there has been nothing so diverting for him as the society of young people; chatter rather than conversation has been as it were prescribed for him, and when he should have been thinking or sleeping he has been playing cards.
It is possible to argue that this complete change from the worries of the day's work has been right and proper, and that his health has been the better for it; but physical well-being can be secured by other means, and no physical well-being is worth the loss of moral power. There are some natures to whom easy-going means a descent. There are some men, and those the strongest sons of nature, for whom the kindest commandment is, "Uphill all the way."
Mr. Asquith, both by inheritance and temperament, was designed for a strenuous life, a strenuous moral life. He was never intended for anything in the nature of a flaneur. If he had followed his star, if he had rigorously pursued the path marked out for him by tradition and his own earliest propensities, he might have been an unpleasant person for a young ladies' tea-party and an unsympathetic person to a gathering of decadent artists; he might indeed have become as heavy as Cromwell and as inhuman as Milton; but he would never have fallen from Olympus with the lightness of thistledown.
LORD NORTHCLIFFE, FIRST VISCOUNT (ALFRED CHARLES WILLIAM HARMSWORTH)
Born, 1865, in Dublin. Educ.: in Trade Schools; trained as a book-seller, and worked in the establishment of George Newnes; LL.D., Rochester Univ., U.S.A.; Proprietor of the London Times, Daily Mail, and a number of other journals; Cr. Bart. in 1904; Viscount, 1917; Chairman of the British War Mission to the United States, 1917; Director of the Aerial Transport Committee, 1917; Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries, 1918.
" ... We cannot say that they have a great nature, or strong, or weak, or light; it is a swift and imperious imagination which reigns with sovereign power over all their beings, which subjugates their genius, and which prescribes for them in turn those fine actions and those faults, those heights and those littlenesses, those flights of enthusiasm and those fits of disgust, which we are wrong in charging either with hypocrisy or madness."—VAUVENARGUES.
A great surgeon tells me he has no doubt that Carlyle suffered all his life from a duodenal ulcer. "One may speculate," he says, "on the difference there would have been in his writings if he had undergone the operation which to-day is quite common."
This remark occurs to me when I think about Lord Northcliffe.
There is something wrong with his health. For a season he is almost boyish in high spirits, not only a charming and a most considerate host, but a spirit animated by the kindliest, broadest, and cheerfullest sympathies. Then comes a period of darkness. He seems to imagine that he may go blind, declares that he cannot eat this and that, shuts himself up from his friends, and feels the whole burden of the world pressing on his soul.
It is impossible to judge him as one would judge a perfectly healthy man.
The most conspicuous thing in his character is its transilience. One is aware in him of an anacoluthic quality, as if his mind suddenly stopped leaping in one direction to begin jumping in a quite contrary direction. It cannot be said that his mind works in any direction. It is not a trained mind. It does not know how to think and cannot support the burden of trying to think. It springs at ideas and goes off with them in haste too great for reflection. He drops these ideas when he sees an excuse for another leap. Sequence to Lord Northcliffe is a synonym for monotony. He has no esprit de suite. But he has leaps of real genius. An admirable title for his biography would be, "The Fits and Starts of a Discontinuous Soul." There is something of St. Vitus in his psychology. You might call him the Spring-Heeled Jack of Journalism.
A story told of one of his journalists illustrates the difficulty of dealing with so uncertain a person. Lord Northcliffe invited this journalist, let us call him Mr. H., to luncheon. They approached the lift of Carmelite House, and Lord Northcliffe drew back to let his guest enter before him—he has excellent manners and, when he is a host, is scrupulously polite to the least of people in his employment. Mr. H. approached the lift, and raising his hat and making a profound bow to the boy in charge of it, passed in before Lord Northcliffe. Nothing was said during the descent. On leaving the lift Mr. H. again raised his hat and bowed low to the boy. When they were out of earshot Lord Northcliffe remonstrated with him on his behaviour. "You shouldn't joke," he said, "with these boys, it makes discipline difficult." "Joke!" exclaimed Mr. H., "good heavens, I wasn't joking; how do I know that to-morrow he will not be the editor of the Daily Mail?"
This story has a real importance. It emphasizes a remarkable characteristic of Lord Northcliffe's variability. It emphasizes the romantic quality of his mind. Nothing would please him more than to discover in one of his office boys an editor for The Times. His own life has given him almost a novelette's passion for romance. He lives in that atmosphere. Few men I have known are so free from snobbishness or so indifferent to the petty conventions of society. The dull life of the world is hateful to him. He would make not only the journalism of the suburbs sensational, he would make the history of mankind a fairy-story.
It is difficult to understand his power in the world. He is not the great organizer that people suppose; all the organization of his business has been done by Lord Rothermere, a very able man of business; nor is he the inspirational genius one is so often asked to believe. Mr. Kennedy Jones is largely responsible for the journalistic fortunes of Lord Northcliffe.
I am disposed to think that it is the romantic quality of his mind which is the source of his power. All the men about him are unimaginative realists. He is the artist in command of the commercial mind, the poet flogging dull words into a kind of wild music. Mr. Kennedy Jones could have started any of his papers, but he could never have imparted to them that living spirit of the unexpected which has kept them so effectually from dulness. Carmelite House could give the news of the world without Lord Northcliffe's help, but without his passion for the twists and turns of the fairy-story it could never have presented that news so that it catches the attention of all classes.
I have never been conscious of greatness in Lord Northcliffe, but I have never failed to feel in his mind something unusual and remarkable. He is not an impressive person, but he is certainly an interesting person. One feels that he has preserved by some magic of temperament, not to be analyzed by the most skilful of psychologists, the spirit of boyhood. You may notice this spirit quite visibly in his face. The years leave few marks on his handsome countenance. He loves to frown and depress his lips before the camera, for, like a child, he loves to play at being somebody else, and somebody else with him is Napoleon—I am sure that he chose the title of Northcliffe so that he might sign his notes with the initial N—but when he is walking in a garden, dressed in white flannels, and looking as if he had just come from a Turkish bath, he has all the appearance of a youth. It is a tragedy that a smile so agreeable should give way at times to a frown as black as midnight; that the freshness of his complexion should yield to an almost jaundiced yellow; and that the fun and frolic of the spirit should flee away so suddenly and for such long periods before the witch of melancholy.
Of his part in the history of the world no historian will be able to speak with unqualified approval. His political purpose from beginning to end, I am entirely convinced, has been to serve what he conceives to be the highest interests of his country. I regard him in the matter of intention as one of the most honourable and courageous men of the day. But he is reckless in the means he employs to achieve his ends. I should say he has no moral scruples in a fight, none at all; I doubt very much if he ever asks himself if anything is right or wrong. I should say that he has only one question to ask of fate before he strips for a fight—is this thing going to be Success or Failure?
In many matters of great importance he has been right, so right that we are apt to forget the number of times he has been wrong. Whether he may not be charged in some measure at least with the guilt of the war, whether he is not responsible for the great bitterness of international feelings which characterized Europe during the last twenty years, is a question that must be left to the historian. But it is already apparent that for want of balance and a moral continuity in his direction of policy Lord Northcliffe has done nothing to elevate the public mind and much to degrade it. He has jumped from sensation to sensation. The opportunity for a fight has pleased him more than the object of the fight has inspired him. He has never seen in the great body of English public opinion a spirit to be patiently and orderly educated towards noble ideals, but rather a herd to be stampeded of a sudden in the direction which he himself has as suddenly conceived to be the direction of success.
The true measure of his shortcomings may be best taken by seeing how a man exercising such enormous power, power repeated day by day, and almost at every hour of the day, might have prepared the way for disarmament and peace, might have modified the character of modern civilization, might have made ostentation look like a crime, might have brought capital and labour into a sensible partnership, and might have given to the moral ideals of the noblest sons of men if not an intellectual impulse at least a convincing advertisement.
The moral and intellectual condition of the world, a position from which only a great spiritual palingenesis can deliver civilization, is a charge on the sheet which Lord Northcliffe will have to answer at the seat of judgment. He has received the price of that condition in the multitudinous pence of the people; consciously or unconsciously he has traded on their ignorance, ministered to their vulgarities, and inflamed the lowest and most corrupting of their passions: if they had had another guide his purse would be empty.
All the same, it is the greatest mistake for his enemies to declare that he is nothing better than a cynical egoist trading on the enormous ignorance of the English middle-classes. He is a boy, full of adventure, full of romance, and full of whims, seeing life as the finest fairy-tale in the world, and enjoying every incident that comes his way, whether it be the bitterest and most cruel of fights or the opportunity for doing someone a romantic kindness.
You may see the boyishness of his nature in the devotion with which he threw himself first into bicycling, then into motoring, and then into flying. He loves machinery. He loves every game which involves physical risk and makes severe demands on courage. His love of England is not his love of her merchants and workmen, but his love of her masculine youth.
He has been generosity itself to his brothers, with all of whom he does not, unfortunately, get on as well as one could wish. The most beautiful thing in his life is the love he cherishes for his mother, and nothing delights him so much as taking away her breath by acts of astonishing devotion. A man so generous and so boyish may make grave mistakes, but he cannot be a deliberately bad man.
MR. ARTHUR BALFOUR
THE RT. HON. ARTHUR JAMES BALFOUR
Born in Scotland 1848; s. of Jas. M. Balfour and Lady Blanche Cecil; nephew of the late Marquis of Salisbury and therefore 1st cousin to the present Marquis, Lord Robert Cecil, and Lord Hugh Cecil. Educ.: Eton and Trinity Coll., Cambridge; LL.D. Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Cambridge, Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield, Columbia (New York); D.C.L. Oxford. M.P. for Hertford, 1874-85; Private Sec'y to his uncle, the late Marquis of Salisbury, 1878-80; served on Mission to Berlin with Salisbury and Beaconsfield, 1878; Privy Councillor, 1885; President of Local Government Board, 1885-86; Sec'y for Scotland, 1886-87; Lord Rector, St. Andrews, 1886; Sec'y for Ireland, 1887-91; Lord Rector, Glasgow, 1890; Chancellor of Edinburgh since 1891; First Lord of Treasury, 1891-92; President British Association, 1904; Prime Minister, 1902-1905; Leader of the Commons, 1895-1906; 1st Lord of the Admiralty 1915-16; Head of British Mission to America, 1917; Author of a series of philosophical and economic works.
MR. ARTHUR BALFOUR
"A sceptre once put into the hand, the grip is instinctive; and he who is firmly seated in authority soon learns to think security and not progress, the highest lesson of statecraft."—J.R. LOWELL.
In one of the Tales Crabbe introduces to us a young lady, Arabella by name, who read Berkeley, Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke and was such a prodigy of learning that she became the wonder of the fair town in which, as he tells us, she shone like a polished brilliant. From that town she reaped, and to that town she gave, renown:
And strangers coming, all were taught t'admire The learned Lady, and the lofty Spire.
One feels that in Mr. Balfour there is something of both the learned Lady and the lofty Spire. He is at once spinsterish and architectural. I mean that he is a very beautiful object to look at, and at the same time a frustrated and perverse nature. Moreover his learning partakes of a drawing-room character, while his loftiness dwindles away to a point which affords no foothold for the sons of man. One may look up to him now and again, but a constant regard would be rewarded by nothing more serviceable to the admirer than a stiff neck. He points upward indeed, but to follow his direction is to discover only the void of etheric vacancy. Like his learning, which may astonish the simple, but which hardly illuminates the student, his virtues leave one cold. Someone who knows him well said to me once, "He is no Sir Galahad. Week-ending and London society have deteriorated his fibre."
He began life well, but he has slackness in his blood and no vital enthusiasm in his heart. His career has been a descent. He has taken things—ethically and industrially—easily, too easily.
It is a pity that Nature forgot to bestow upon him those domestic motions of the heart which humanize the mind and beautify character, for in many ways he was fitted to play a great part in affairs of State and with real emotion in his nature would have made an ideal leader of the nation during the struggle with Germany. He is a conspicuous example of the value of sensibility, for lacking this one quality he has entirely failed to reach the greatness to which his many gifts entitled him.
Few men can be so charming: no man can be more impressive. His handsome appearance, his genial manner, his distinguished voice, his eagerness and playfulness in conversation, all contribute to an impression of personality hardly equalled at the present time. He might easily pass for the perfect ideal of the gentleman. In a certain set of society he remains to this day a veritable prince of men. And his tastes are pure, and his life is wholesome.
A lady of my acquaintance was once praising to its mother a robust and handsome infant who could boast a near relationship with Mr. Arthur Balfour. "Yes," said the mother, with criticism in her eyes and voice, "I think he is a nice child, but we rather fear he lacks the Balfourian manner." Even in childhood!
This Balfourian manner, as I understand it, has its roots in an attitude of mind—an attitude of convinced superiority which insists in the first place on complete detachment from the enthusiasms of the human race, and in the second place on keeping the vulgar world at arm's length.
It is an attitude of mind which a critic or a cynic might be justified in assuming, for it is the attitude of one who desires rather to observe the world than to shoulder any of its burdens; but it is a posture of exceeding danger to anyone who lacks tenderness or sympathy, whatever his purpose or office may be, for it tends to breed the most dangerous of all intellectual vices, that spirit of self-satisfaction which Dostoievsky declares to be the infallible mark of an inferior mind.
To Mr. Arthur Balfour this studied attitude of aloofness has been fatal, both to his character and to his career. He has said nothing, written nothing, done nothing, which lives in the heart of his countrymen. To look back upon his record is to see a desert, and a desert with no altar and with no monument, without even one tomb at which a friend might weep. One does not say of him, "He nearly succeeded there," or "What a tragedy that he turned from this to take up that"; one does not feel for him at any point in his career as one feels for Mr. George Wyndham or even for Lord Randolph Churchill; from its outset until now that career stretches before our eyes in a flat and uneventful plain of successful but inglorious and ineffective self-seeking.
There is one signal characteristic of the Balfourian manner which is worthy of remark. It is an assumption in general company of a most urbane, nay, even a most cordial spirit. I have heard many people declare at a public reception that he is the most gracious of men, and seen many more retire from shaking his hand with a flush of pride on their faces as though Royalty had stooped to inquire after the measles of their youngest child. Such is ever the effect upon vulgar minds of geniality in superiors: they love to be stooped to from the heights.
But this heartiness of manner is of the moment only, and for everybody; it manifests itself more personally in the circle of his intimates and is irresistible in week-end parties; but it disappears when Mr. Balfour retires into the shell of his private life and there deals with individuals, particularly with dependents. It has no more to do with his spirit than his tail-coat and his white tie. Its remarkable impression comes from its unexpectedness; its effect is the shock of surprise. In public he is ready to shake the whole world by the hand, almost to pat it on the shoulder; but in private he is careful to see that the world does not enter even the remotest of his lodge gates.
"The truth about Arthur Balfour," said George Wyndham, "is this: he knows there's been one ice-age, and he thinks there's going to be another."
Little as the general public may suspect it, the charming, gracious, and cultured Mr. Balfour is the most egotistical of men, and a man who would make almost any sacrifice to remain in office. It costs him nothing to serve under Mr. Lloyd George; it would have cost him almost his life to be out of office during a period so exciting as that of the Great War. He loves office more than anything this world can offer; neither in philosophy nor music, literature nor science, has he ever been able to find rest for his soul. It is profoundly instructive that a man with a real talent for the noblest of those pursuits which make solitude desirable and retirement an opportunity should be so restless and dissatisfied, even in old age, outside the doors of public life.
The most serious effect upon his character of this central selfishness may be seen in his treatment of George Wyndham. Mr. Balfour has had only one friend in his parliamentary life, Alfred Lyttelton, but George Wyndham came nearer to his affections than any other man in the Unionist Party, and was at one time Mr. Balfour's devoted admirer. Nevertheless, in the hour of his tragedy, in the hour which broke his heart and destroyed his career, Mr. Balfour, who should have championed him against the wolves of the Party, and might, I verily believe, have saved both him and Ireland, turned away his face and rendered homage to political opportunism. Wyndham's grave and the present condition of Ireland stand as sorrowful reminders of that unworthy act.
Wyndham was by no means a first-rate politician, but he was a sincere man, something too of a genius, and I think there was genuine inspiration in his method of solving the Irish question.
This incident reveals in Mr. Balfour a capacity for meanness which rather darkens his good qualities. It prevents one from believing that his conduct has always been guided by noble and disinterested motives. The historian might have said that although he mistook astuteness and adroitness in parliamentary debate for statesmanship, and although he accomplished nothing for the good of his country, he yet lent a certain dignity and nobleness to public life at a time when it was besieged by new forces in democracy having no reverence for tradition and little respect for good manners; but when the full truth of the Wyndham incident is related it will be difficult for the historian to avoid a somewhat harsh judgment on Mr. Balfour's character.
Nor does the Wyndham incident stand alone. His treatment of Mr. Ritchie and Lord George Hamilton was very bad. Then there was the case of Joseph Chamberlain, who had good reason never to forgive him. Some day Mr. Asquith (or will it be Mrs. Asquith) may tell the story of dealings with Mr. Balfour which were not of a handsome character. The more these things are revealed the worse I think it will be for Mr. Balfour's character.
But such is the personal effect of the man that even those whom he has treated badly never bring any public charge against him. With the exception of Mr. Asquith, and Joseph Chamberlain, all forgave him, and even sought to find excuses for his inexplicable lapse. But I am inclined to think that this indicates weakness on the part of the victim rather than grace on the part of the victimizer.
There are other ways in which his lack of sensibility manifests itself in an unpleasant fashion. He is so self-absorbed that he appears to be wholly unaware of those who minister to his comfort. Of his servants he never knows the least detail, not even their names, and even a devoted secretary who has served him faithfully for many years may find himself treated almost as a stranger in a moment of need. I fear it must be said that in financial matters Mr. Balfour is as close-fisted as any miser, although I believe that this meanness has its rise, not so much in avariciousness as in a total incapacity to realize the importance of money to other people.
It has been said that the whole history of philosophical thought is an attempt to separate the object and the subject. Mr. Balfour appears to have made this separation complete. For him there is no object. His mind has embraced his subjective self, and has not merely refused the fruitless effort of attempting to stand outside its functions in order to perceive its own perceptions, but, abandoning the unperceived perceptions and the inactive activities of ultimate reality, it has canonized its own functions and deified its own subjective universe. So complete, indeed, is this separation that he can scarcely be called selfish, since for him there exists no objective field for the operation of unselfishness.
I lament this self-absorption of Mr. Balfour as much as I lament in his cousin Lord Robert Cecil the lack of the fighting qualities of leadership. To no man of the Unionist Party after the death of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury have more hopeful opportunities presented themselves for creative statesmanship. He might have settled the Irish Question. He might have avoided the Boer War, in the conduct of which he behaved with real nobleness at the beginning. He might have saved Germany from her own war-mongers. In any case he might have led the Unionist Party towards construction and so have prevented the slap-dash methods at reform set going by Mr. Lloyd George after a long and irritating period of Tory pottering. For few men in modern times have exercised so great a fascination over that curious and easily satisfied body, the House of Commons, and no man in the public life of our times has enjoyed a more powerful prestige in the constituencies. Indeed, he stood for many years as the most dignified and honourable figure in the public life of Great Britain, and his influence in politics during the first part of that period was without serious rivalry.
It must not be forgotten, too, that in the days of "bloody Balfour" he was not merely chivalrous, but even Quixotic, in taking upon himself the mistakes and misdoings of his subordinates in Ireland. He certainly had the makings of a chivalrous figure, and perhaps even a great man. One thinks that he began his descent unconsciously, and that carelessness rather than any inherent badness led gradually to an egoism which has proved fatal to his powers and to his character.
To the self-absorbed, vision is impossible. Mr. Balfour, unable to penetrate the future, has lived from day to day, enjoying the game of politics for the fun of confounding critics and managing colleagues, enjoying too the privilege and dignity of power, but never once feeling the call of the future, or experiencing one genuine desire to leave the world better than he found it. And now he ends his political career clinging to a decorative office under the leadership of Mr. Lloyd George.
At the end of his Gifford Lectures, after an argument which induced one of his listeners to say that he had a stammer in his thoughts, Mr. Balfour announced his faith in God. One may recall Pascal's exclamation, "How far it is from believing in God to loving Him!"
I have always thought it significant of his true nature that Mr. Balfour should be one of the worst offenders in that unlovely Front Bench habit of putting his feet up on the Clerk's table. The last time I was in the House of Commons Mr. J.H. Thomas was lying back on the Opposition Front Bench with his legs in the air and his muddy boots crossed on the table. The boorishness of this attitude struck my companion very sharply. But I pointed out to him that the difference between Mr. Thomas, the Labour member, and Mr. Balfour, the great gentleman, was merely a size in boots.
LORD KITCHENER OF KHARTOUM
Born, 1846; entered Army, 1866; Colonel, 1899; Burmah Campaign, 1891; Viscount, 1914; Baron, 1914; Earl, 1914; Sec'y for War, 1914; died, 1917.
"I never knew a man so fixed upon doing what he considered his duty."—CROKER PAPERS.
Soon after he had taken his chair at the War Office, Lord Kitchener received a call from Mr. Lloyd George. The politician had come to urge the appointment of denominational chaplains for all the various sects represented in the British Army.
Lord Kitchener was opposed to the idea, which seemed to him irregular, unnecessary, and expensive, involving a waste of transport, rations, and clerks' labour. But Mr. Lloyd George stuck to his sectarian guns, and was so insistent, especially in respect of Presbyterians, that at last the Secretary of State for War yielded in this one case. He took up his pen rather grudgingly and growled out, "Very well: you shall have a Presbyterian." Then one of his awkward smiles broke up the firmness of his bucolic face. "Let's see," he asked; "Presbyterian?—how do you spell it?"
This was one of his earliest adventures with politicians, and he ended it with a sly cut at unorthodoxy. A little later came another political experience which afforded him real insight into this new world of Party faction, one of those experiences not to be lightly dismissed with a jest.
He discovered at the War Office that preparations had been made for just such an emergency as had now occurred. The thoughtfulness and thoroughness of this work struck him with surprise, and he inquired the name of its author. He was told that Lord Haldane had made these preparations. "Haldane!" he exclaimed; "but isn't he the man who is being attacked by the newspapers?"
A chivalrous feeling which does not seem to have visited the bosoms of any of Lord Haldane's colleagues visited the bosom of this honest soldier. Someone about him who had enjoyed personal relations with various editors was dispatched to one of the most offending editors conducting the campaign against Lord Haldane with the object of stopping this infamous vendetta.
"I know what you say is true," replied this editor, "and I regret the attack as much as Lord Kitchener does; but I have received my orders and they come from so important a quarter that I dare not disobey them." He gave Lord Kitchener's emissary the name of a much respected leader of the Unionist Party.
Thus early in his career at the War Office Lord Kitchener learnt that the spirit of the public school does not operate in Westminster and that politics are a dirty business.
At no time in his life was Lord Kitchener "a racehorse amongst cows," as the Greeks put it, being, even in his greatest period, of a slow, heavy, and laborious turn of mind; but when he entered Mr. Asquith's Cabinet he was at least an honest man amongst lawyers. He was a great man; wherever he sat, to borrow a useful phrase, was the head of the table; but this greatness of his, not being the full greatness of a complete man, and having neither the support of a keen intellect nor the foundations of a strong moral character, wilted in the atmosphere of politics, and in the end left him with little but the frayed cloak of his former reputation.
There is no doubt that his administration of the War Office was not a success. In all important matters of strategy he shifted his ground from obstinacy to sulkiness, yielding where he should not have yielded at all, and yielding grudgingly where to yield without the whole heart was fatal to success: in the end he was among the drifters, "something between a hindrance and a help," and the efforts to get rid of him were perhaps justified, although Mr. Asquith's policy of curtailing his autocracy on the occasions when he was abroad had the greater wisdom.
I shall not trouble to correct the popular idea of Lord Kitchener's character beyond saying that he was the last man in the world to be called a machine, and that he solemnly distrusted the mechanism of all organizations. He was first and last an out-and-out individualist, a believer in men, a hater of all systems. As Sir Ian Hamilton has said, wherever he saw organization his first instinct was to smash it. I think his autocracy at the War Office might have been of greater service to the country if all the trained thinkers of the Army, that small body of brilliant men, had not been in France. Even in his prime Lord Kitchener was the most helpless of men without lieutenants he could trust to do his bidding or to improve upon it in the doing.
It will better serve the main purpose of this book to suggest in what particulars the real greatness of this once glorious and finally pathetic figure came to suffer shipwreck at the hands of the politicians.
Lord Kitchener's greatness was the indefinable greatness of personality. He was not a clever man. He had no gifts of any kind. In the society of scholars he was mum and among the lovers of the beautiful he cut an awkward figure. At certain moments he had curious flashes of inspiration, but they came at long intervals and were seldom to be had in the day of drudgery, when his mind was not excited. On the whole his intelligence was of a dull order, plodding heavily through experience, mapping the surface of life rather than penetrating any of its mysteries, making slowly quite sure of one or two things rather than grasping the whole problem at a stroke.
But there was one movement in his character which developed greatness and by its power brought him to wonderful success and great honour; this was a deep, an unquestioning, a religious sense of duty.
He started life with a stubborn ambition. As he went along he felt the lightness of duty, and married his ambition to this Spartan virtue. He remained in most respects as selfish a man as ever lived, as selfish as a greedy schoolboy; nevertheless by the power of his single virtue, to which he was faithful up to his last moments on this earth, he was able to sacrifice his absorbing self-interest to the national welfare even in a political atmosphere which sickened him at every turn.
You may see what I mean by considering that while he longed for nothing so much in later life as the possession of Broome Park, and that while his selfishness stopped hardly at anything to enrich that house with pictures, china, and furniture, and that while he would shamelessly hint for things in the houses of the people who were entertaining him, even in the houses of his own subordinates, until the weaker or the more timorous gave him the object of his covetousness, nevertheless for the sake of his country he clung to the uncongenial chair in Whitehall, not merely working like a cart-horse for what he considered to be his nation's good, but suffering without public complaint of any kind, and scarcely a private grumble, all the numerous humiliations that came his way either from his own colleagues in the Cabinet or from a powerful section of the newspapers outside.
I remember hearing from the late Mr. John Bonner, a most admirable artist in many fields, an amusing account of an interview with Lord Kitchener which illustrates the Field-Marshal's passion for his Kentish home, and also sheds a telling light on the aesthetic side of his character.
Mr. Bonner had been recommended to Lord Kitchener, who wanted amorini scattered about the leafy gardens at Broome. Drawings were made and approved: a few months afterwards the amorini were set up in the gardens.
Soon came a summons to the presence of the great man. Mr. Bonner found him a terrible object in a terrible rage. In his late years, be it remembered, Lord Kitchener was not good to look upon. He appeared a coarse, a top-heavy person; and in anger, his cross-eyes could be painfully disconcerting.
Lord Kitchener forgot that Mr. Bonner was not only an artist of a singularly beautiful spirit, but a gentleman. He blazed at him. What did he mean by sticking up those ridiculous little figures in Broome?—what did he mean by it?—with an unpleasant reference to the account.
The poor artist, terribly affrighted, said that he thought Lord Kitchener had seen his drawings and approved of them. "Yes, the drawings!—but you can't see the figures when they're up! What's the good of something you can't see?"
The great man, it appeared at last, wanted amorini the size of giants; a rather Rosherville taste.
"He had knowledge," said Lady Sackville, from whose beautiful house he borrowed many ideas for Broome, and would have liked to have carried off many of its possessions, particularly a William the Fourth drum which he found in his bedroom as a waste-paper receptacle; "he had knowledge but no taste."
Her daughter said to me on one occasion, "Every chair he sits in becomes a throne," referring to the atmosphere of power and dignity which surrounded him.
It is instructive, I think, to remark how a single virtue passionately held—held, I mean, with a religious sense of its seriousness—can carry even a second-class mind to genuine greatness, a greatness that can be felt if not defined. In every sense of the word greatness, as we apply it to a saint, a poet, or a statesman, Lord Kitchener was a second-class and even a third-class person; but so driving was his sense of duty that it carried him to the very forefront of national life, and but for the political atmosphere in which he had to work for the last few years of his distinguished service to the State he might have easily become one of the great and shining heroes of British history. He had no taste; but the impression he made on those who had was the impression of a great character.
How was it that his greatness, that is to say his greatness of personality, made so pitiable an end? What was lacking that this indubitable greatness should have been so easily brayed in the mortar of politics?
The answer I think is this: a single virtue can bestow greatness, and the greatness may never fail when it has time and space in which to express itself; but many virtues of intellect and character are necessary when time is of the essence of the contract, and more especially in a situation of shared responsibility.
Lord Kitchener knew many of his own failings. He was by no means a vain man. Indeed he suffered considerable pain from the knowledge that he was not the tremendous person of the popular imagination. This knowledge robbed him of self-assurance. He tried to live up to the legendary Kitchener, and so long as he could find men as brave as himself, but of swifter and more adaptable intelligence, to do his bidding, he succeeded: many of the public, indeed, believed in the legendary Kitchener up to the day of his tragic death—death, that unmistakable reality, meeting him on a journey, the object of which was to impress Russia with the legendary Kitchener. But more and more, particularly in consultation with the quick wits of politicians, he found it impossible to impersonate his reputation.
I have been told by more than one Cabinet Minister that it was impressive to see how the lightning intellects of Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Winston Churchill again and again reduced the gigantic soldier to a stupefied and sulking silence.
A proposal would be made by a minister, and Mr. Asquith would turn to Lord Kitchener for his opinion. Lord Kitchener would say, "It's impossible," and close his lips firmly. At this Mr. Lloyd George would attack him, pointing out the reasonableness of this proposal in swift and persuasive phrases. Lord Kitchener, shifting on his chair, would repeat, "It's impossible." Then in question after question Mr. Churchill would ask why it was impossible. "It's impossible," Lord Kitchener would mumble at the end of these questions. Finally, when nearly everybody had attempted to extract from him the reason for his refusal to countenance this proposal, he would make an impatient side movement of his head, unfold his arms, bend over the papers on the table before him, and grunt out, sometimes with a boyish smile of relief, "Oh, all right, have it your own way."
He lacked almost every grace of the spirit. There was nothing amiable in his character. Very few men liked him a great deal, and none I should say loved him. I do not think he was brutal by nature, although his nature was not refined; but he cultivated a brutal manner. He had the happiness of three or four friendships with cultivated and good women, but the beautiful creature whom he loved hungrily and doggedly, and to whom he proposed several times, could never bring herself to marry him. I think there was no holy of holies in his character, no sanctuaries for the finer intimacies of human life. As Sainte-Beuve said of Rousseau, "he has at times a little goitre in his voice." One sees the fulness of his limitations by comparing him with such great figures of Indian history as the Lawrences and Nicholson: in that comparison he shrinks at once to the dimensions of a colour-sergeant.
But in attempting to study a man of this nature, for our own learning, we should rather observe how notable a victory he achieved in making so much of so little than vociferate that he was not this thing or that.
He began life with no gifts from the gods; it was not in his horoscope to be either a saint or a hero; no one was less likely to create enthusiasm or to become a legend; and yet by resolutely following the road of duty, by earnestly and stubbornly striving to serve his country's interests, and by never for one moment considering in that service the safety of his own life or the making of his own fortune, this rough and ordinary man bred in himself a greatness which, magnified by the legend itself created, helped his country in one of the darkest hours, perhaps the very darkest, of its long history.