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countries (excepting Russia, where the new men have indulged in a disastrous experiment). It is particularly true of France, where practically all the men worth mentioning are the old, tried men.
As I write, I cannot forecast what will be done at Washington; I can only anticipate that the American delegates will be purely American, the British purely British, and the French purely French; each concerned to defend the narrow interests of his own country, when it is a generous coöperation of all countries that is called for. There are some questions, such as general disarmament, such as a general economic and financial settlement, that nobody seems big enough to tackle seriously and honestly; nobody seems big enough even to approach them, except with the desire to show that his own nation is in an exceptional position and cannot conform to any suggested world-order. Most of the ills from which we suffer are not national: they cannot be settled by national statesmen, but only by men with the international mind, men with an outlook as broad as mankind. There are no sectional cures: there are only radical remedies.
H. G. Wells, in his Outline of History, says of the politicians of a certain Roman epoch that they only demonstrate how clever and cunning men may be, how subtle in contention, how brilliant in pretense, and how utterly wanting in wisdom and grace of spirit. It seems to me, as it seems to Mr. Wells, that this is a true description of most of the politicians of all countries to-day. It must not be supposed that France is in this respect different from other nations. I am bound to say this much; but, having said it, I must take another measure and paint the French politicians for what they are. They do not, any more than do the men in power in other countries, reach ideal dimensions: they must be judged on their plane.
It is a somewhat extraordinary fact that three, at least, of the little group of men who are most conspicuous in French politics, who have climbed to the heights of power, began their career as Socialists. Robert Louis Stevenson, I remember, suggests somewhere that most of us begin as revolutionaries and end up, somewhere about middle age, as conservatives. Certainly it would be difficult to find better examples of this inevitable evolution in the human spirit than are furnished by that trio, Alexandre Millerand, Aristide Briand, and René Viviani. Of course, it is foolish to make a charge of inconsistency. No man can be judged by his youth. It is to their credit that, before they acquired the reticences of later years, before they learned that progress is slow and must be orderly, these distinguished Frenchmen were aflame with the passion of putting the world to rights. However violently, in certain cases, aspirations toward a better order of things were expressed; however incandescent were their sympathies with the downtrodden; however excessive were sometimes their remedies, it does honor to them that they were moved by essentially noble impulses. He is, indeed, a poor man who has never felt wild yearnings, has never been guided rather by the heart than by the head.
When I look round the political field in France, I am invariably surprised with the recurring discovery that not only these three, but nearly all prominent publicists and politicians, have passed through this stage of ardent, if unruly, enthusiasm. They have not entered the arena coldly, calculatingly. They became gladiators because of their generous emotions. They have been shaped into what they are to-day by experience. This is excellent, and is entirely in their favor. It may be that
instances could be discovered where the ensuing disillusionment has induced cynicism. But, on the whole, such a beginning is a proof of sincerity.
On the other hand, they are naturally open to the attacks of the Communists of to-day, who frequently quote against them their speeches of other days and show that they now oppose that which they aforetime promoted. For example, M. Millerand, in 1896, in a famous discourse, proclaimed the right to strike; and in 1920, following a strike, he instituted proceedings against the Confédération Générale du Travail, which have helped to bring this association of trade-unions to its present position of impotence. He was, again, a foremost figure in anti-clerical movements and liquidated the congregations, while during his premiership last year he commenced the negotiations for reëstablishing relations with Rome. It is, however, a peculiarly little mind that would make these apparent reversals of policy a reproach. There was a moment when it was important, above all, to assert the right to strike. There was another moment when the superior interests of the country demanded the suppression of dangerous agitation. There was a moment when the priesthood had become mischievous in France and menaced the Republic. And there was another moment when diplomatic reasons urged the appeasement of the old religious quarrel. Those abstract politicians who forget that circumstances are of more importance than doctrines are open to criticism. Whatever M. Millerand has done, it should never be forgotten that, when he entered the cabinet of Waldeck-Rousseau as the first Socialist minister, he initiated many remarkable social reforms. To him are due pensions, a weekly rest-day for workers, and the shortening of hours for women and children employed in industry.
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Most of his ministerial work has been in connection with internal affairs. He has been an able organizer; he is a hard worker of the dogged rather than the brilliant kind. Certainly he is tenacious. When he became Prime Minister after the defeat of M. Clemenceau, who had expected to become President of the Republic, French opinion was just beginning to turn against the authors of the treaty, and was beginning to proclaim that England (to employ a French expression) had taken most of the blanket for herself. Mr. Lloyd George, regarded as too clever by half, was beginning to be cordially detested in France; and it was not long before M. Clemenceau was accused of having given way on almost every point to the British Premier. The old Tiger, who had been placed upon a higher pedestal than any statesman of the Third Republic, now discovered that the Tarpeian Rock was near to the Capitol. There were even clamors for his trial in the High Court of Justice, for having sacrificed French interests in favor of his friends, the English.
The task of M. Millerand, following this amazing fall of M. Clemenceau from the heights of popularity to the depths of unpopularity, was difficult. It was his function to resist Mr. Lloyd George. With his shrewd sense, however, he was aware that a compromise with Germany was inevitable and desirable. But behind him was the clamorous Bloc National, refusing, even in the name of a policy of realism, any further concessions to Germany in respect of reparations, and declining to take any practical step which might be construed as a concession to British views. There began a long-drawn-out fight between France and England. The attempt to get away from the sentimentalism of the Versailles Treaty, with its grotesquely impossible demands on Germany, was rendered hard
by the suspicions of Parliament. While dislike of England grew, anger against Germany grew; and every time that Germany's debt was defined (still in unreasonable terms), M. Millerand was in danger of being overthrown.
More time was needed for the truth to dawn on the politicians, not only of France, but of the Allies generally the truth that there are limits, easily reached, to the transfer of wealth from one country to another; that, speaking broadly, wealth can be transferred only in the shape of goods which it is against the industrial and commercial interests of the receiving country to accept. This truth has also its application to America, who can be paid what is owing to her by the Allies only in the form of goods which she puts up tariff barriers to keep out.
Gradually the world is awakening to the fact that the only rational policy is one which consists in canceling, not of necessity nominally, but virtually, the bulk of international debts, German or Allied, and in resuming as quickly as possible normal trade-relations. This does not mean, of course, that Germany should make no reparations. She should be made to pay all that it is possible for her to pay; but chiefly she should be obliged to help in the rebuilding of the ruined North, as now, at long last, she promises to do under. the Loucheur-Rathenau accord, which makes hay of the treaty and of the London Agreement, and of the principle of collective negotiations and action against Germany. France has, I think, reached a point where the more or less willing coöperation of victor and vanquished is seen to be necessary. But when M. Millerand was in power, he was unable to carry out such a policy. At Spa, where he consented to meet the Germans, matters only became worse. It was assuredly not his fault. Events could not be hurried. It
will still take some years before Europe can get far on the right lines. But it must be said of M. Millerand that he did at Spa adumbrate the possibility of voluntary arrangements.
M. Millerand would not be human if he did not sometimes give way to sudden impulses. There was in this atmosphere of opposition between France and England every excuse for his desire to demonstrate the independence of France - not to be forever subordinate to England. There were several incidents that appeared to be inspired by a determination to break the supposed hegemony of England. The Entente is not to be lightly thrown away; but some of the consequences of the Entente, when they run counter to French policy, must be destroyed. M. Millerand may be looked upon as a friend of the Entente, but an enemy of British domination. Thus, he revolted against the British tolerance of Germany's non-fulfillment of her obligations, by marching on Frankfort. Then, against the express advice of England, he recognized Wrangel, that anti-Bolshevist adventurer whose moment of glory soon passed. Then he took Poland's part when Poland had foolishly provoked a war with Russia, and England counseled conciliation-sending General Weygand to save Warsaw. It was precisely this lucky stroke which secured for him the Presidency of the Republic. It seemed hopeless to think of beating back the Bolsheviki from before Warsaw before Warsaw - but the miracle happened. He soared into popularity, and as, at that time, M. Deschanel, the President, had fallen ill and was compelled to resign, he was carried triumphantly to the Élysée.
It may be taken that, as President, M. Millerand exercises more authority than most of his predecessors have exercised. He is extremely strong-willed, and on his acceptance of his seven-year
post, declared that he intended that the premiers he would call should carry out his policy. In France it is not as in America: the President has, constitutionally, little power. The executive chief is the Premier, who is responsible to Parliament and whom Parliament can make or break. Nevertheless, a man like M. Millerand, if he is surrounded by influential supporters and has really the favor of Parliament, can become supreme. It is only when he is faced by a Premier who is backed up by Parliament, and whose policy is in opposition to that of the President, that he must submit, on pain of being broken, as was President MacMahon. M. Poincaré has recently shown that against M. Clemenceau then at the height of the power derived from Parliament and people — he could do nothing, even though he was strenuously against the provisions of the treaty. The president may be indeed nothing in France, and the Elysée may be a prison. There are those who assert that M. Poincaré, who now enjoys much backing, would have been earlier called to the premiership had not M. Millerand passed him over, just as M. Poincaré for a long time passed over M. Clemenceau. However that may be, M. Leygues, who succeeded M. Millerand as Premier, was little more than the nominee of M. Millerand, carrying out his instructions. M. Briand presently succeeded M. Leygues, and although M. Briand is far from being colorless, Premier and President have worked amicably together, and M. Millerand may be considered to be still in the ascendant, still the supreme authority in France, in fact as in name.
M. Aristide Briand, more than any other French politician, has won the reputation of being shrewd and skillful
in emergencies. If one wishes for confirmation of this opinion, it is necessary to see him in a tight corner. He knows how to get out of tight corners better than anyone. It may sometimes be thought that he might have avoided getting into tight corners.
Now M. Briand is a fine manœuvrer: it is exhilarating to watch him placing his opponents, when they are most cocksure, in an impossible situation. His method of speech-making is a lesson in Parliamentary strategy. It is odd that, in a country so renowned for its eloquence, the written speech is so common. Often have I seen an orator who has gained great fame take out of his pocket his typewritten reply to a simple expression of thanks for attending a luncheon, and proceed to read formal or flowery phrases. It is somewhat disconcerting to the AngloSaxon, who is used to impromptu speeches - the substance of which is doubtless well prepared, but of which the words are left largely to the inspiration of the moment. It is with us regarded as a confession of weakness, a sign of artificiality, to hold in one's hands the evidence of careful study. We have at least to pretend to spontaneity. The form is thus sacrificed, but the appearance of sincerity is saved. But with the French the form counts for much. Out comes the written document, and only its forceful delivery preserves for it its effect of directness.
But M. Briand is not one of those French orators who not only rehearse but write their speeches. On the contrary, his efforts are nearly always impromptu. This is essentially characteristic of the man. He is the improviser par excellence. He is an amazing virtuoso. In France they say that he 'plays the violoncello.' He plays it without the music before him. plays it precisely as the occasion suggests. He would, perhaps, be singularly
embarrassed were he called upon to play a set piece. He loves to embroider, to compose as he goes along, to await the inspiration of the moment and the call of circumstance. This is true of his speeches - but it is also true, in a larger sense, of his politics.
It may indeed be taken as a parable and illustration of the man this habit of his to search in his audience the words, the ideas, which he utters. There are times when one might pardonably suppose M. Briand to be tired, indifferent; not to put too fine a point upon it — lazy. But this impression is altogether wrong. M. Briand is like Mr. Lloyd George inasmuch as he relies largely on his intuition, his immediate judgments, his ever-ready resources. He comes into the Chamber apparently without anything particular to say. He reads an official statement in a dull voice. He seems to be bored, and so does the Chamber. There is an atmosphere of hostility. One wonIders what will be his fate.
And then, discarding the official state ment, without notes, without (so far as one knows) any preparation, he begins one of his wonderful discourses. At first he feels his way cautiously. His voice takes on a new animation. There is an interruption. Somebody in the Chamber reveals the ground of antagonism. This is what M. Briand is waiting for. He applies himself to that point; he develops his theme. He vanquishes this particular opposition, only, perhaps, to arouse opposition from the other side of the house. This gives him a fresh start. He seems to seek to penetrate the minds of his opponents in order to demolish their objections. Now he pits the Right against the Left, and now he rouses the Left to enthusiasm. It is the most beautiful balancing of views it is possible to conceive.
Speeches, it is sometimes said, never change a vote in parliamentary assem
blies. This may be true of parliaments like the British, where two, or, at the most, three parties sit on their benches with their minds made up, ready to obey their party whip. But it is not true of M. Briand in the French Parliament, where there are many groups and where the possibilities of combination are as numerous as the combinations of a pack of cards. He knows, as few men know, how to shuffle them - how to lead this card and then that. In his way he is certainly the most masterly parliamentarian who has ever been known in France. If proof were necessary, it would be found in the fact that seven times has he been called upon to govern; and this year, in spite of his reputation of belonging to the Left, he has performed the extraordinary feat of governing largely with the support of the Right. For that matter, he belongs, in the formal sense, neither to the Right nor to the Left. He has no party. He has, strictly speaking, no following. He remains, when he is not in office, alone and apart. Well does he know that, when the situation becomes unmanageable, when the Parliamentary team is difficult to drive, his day will again
Most of the French politicians — M. Poincaré and M. Viviani are notable instances - combine their rôle of politician with the rôle of journalist, and, when they are not responsible for the government, become the most powerful critics of the government in the press. Such has been the life of M. Clemenceau. Sometimes he has been premier, and at other times he has been a formidable antagonist of the premier, thundering against him, not from the tribune, but from the newspaper that he directed. Now, although M. Briand, like most other French politicians, began his career as journalist, he never takes up the pen in the intervals of office. He does hardly any lobbying; he rarely