Prime Minister Lloyd George on the British War Aims

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<p align="right"> [[Main_Page | WWI Document Archive ]] > [[1918 Documents]] > '''Prime Minister Lloyd George on the British War Aims''' </p><hr>
 +
 
British War Aims<br>Statement by the Right Honourable<br>David Lloyd George<br>January Fifth, Nineteen Hundred and Eighteen<br>Authorized Version as published by the British Government<br>
 
British War Aims<br>Statement by the Right Honourable<br>David Lloyd George<br>January Fifth, Nineteen Hundred and Eighteen<br>Authorized Version as published by the British Government<br>
 
      
 
      
New York: George H. Doran Company<
+
New York: George H. Doran Company
 
<hr>
 
<hr>
 
    
 
    
When the Government," said Lloyd George,  "invite organized labor in this country to
+
When the Government," said Lloyd George,  "invite organized labor in this country to
assist them to maintain the might of their armies in
+
assist them to maintain the might of their armies in
the field, its representatives are entitled to ask that
+
the field, its representatives are entitled to ask that
any misgivings and doubts which any of them may
+
any misgivings and doubts which any of them may
have about the purpose to which this precious
+
have about the purpose to which this precious
strength is to be applied should be definitely cleared,
+
strength is to be applied should be definitely cleared,
and what is true of organized labour is equally true
+
and what is true of organized labour is equally true
of all citizens in this country, without regard to
+
of all citizens in this country, without regard to
grade or avocation.<pr>
+
grade or avocation. "When men by the million are being called upon
+
to suffer and die, and vast populations are being
      "When men by the million are being called upon
+
subjected to the sufferings and privations of war on
to suffer and die, and vast populations are being
+
a scale unprecedented in the history of the world,
subjected to the sufferings and privations of war on
+
they are entitled to know for what cause or causes
a scale unprecedented in the history of the world,
+
they are making the sacrifice. It is only the clearest,
they are entitled to know for what cause or causes
+
greatest and justest of causes that can justify the
they are making the sacrifice. It is only the clearest,
+
greatest and justest of causes that can justify the
+
 
continuance even for one day of this unspeakable
 
continuance even for one day of this unspeakable
 
agony of the nations, and we ought to be able to state
 
agony of the nations, and we ought to be able to state
 
clearly and definitely, not only the principles for
 
clearly and definitely, not only the principles for
which we are fighting, but also their definite and concrete application to the war map of the world.<p>
+
which we are fighting, but also their definite and concrete application to the war map of the world.<br><br>
  
        "We have arrived at the most critical hour in this
+
"We have arrived at the most critical hour in this
 
terrible conflict, and before any government takes
 
terrible conflict, and before any government takes
 
the fateful decision as to the conditions under which
 
the fateful decision as to the conditions under which
Line 32: Line 32:
 
it ought to be satisfied that the conscience of the nation is behind these conditions, for nothing else can
 
it ought to be satisfied that the conscience of the nation is behind these conditions, for nothing else can
 
sustain the effort which is necessary to achieve a  
 
sustain the effort which is necessary to achieve a  
righteous end to this war.
+
righteous end to this war.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "I have, therefore, during the last few days taken
+
 
 +
"I have, therefore, during the last few days taken
 
special pains to ascertain the view and the attitude
 
special pains to ascertain the view and the attitude
 
of representative men of all sections of thought and
 
of representative men of all sections of thought and
Line 47: Line 48:
 
self-government, I should have been happy to exchange views with them, but Mr. Redmond, speaking on their behalf, has, with his usual lucidity and
 
self-government, I should have been happy to exchange views with them, but Mr. Redmond, speaking on their behalf, has, with his usual lucidity and
 
force, in many of his speeches, made clear what his
 
force, in many of his speeches, made clear what his
ideas are as to the object and purpose of the war.
+
ideas are as to the object and purpose of the war.<br><br>
      <p>                                                                          
+
                                                                             
                                              "I have also had the opportunity of consulting certain representatives of the great dominions overseas.<p>
+
"I have also had the opportunity of consulting certain representatives of the great dominions overseas.<br><br>
 
                                                
 
                                                
                                                      "I am glad to be able to say, as a result of all these
+
"I am glad to be able to say, as a result of all these
                                              discussions, that, although the Government are alone
+
discussions, that, although the Government are alone
                                              responsible for the actual language I propose using,
+
responsible for the actual language I propose using,
                                              there is national agreement as to the character and
+
there is national agreement as to the character and
                                              purpose of our war aims and peace conditions, and
+
purpose of our war aims and peace conditions, and
                                              in what I say to you to-day, and through you to the
+
in what I say to you to-day, and through you to the
                                              world, I can venture to claim that I am speaking, not
+
world, I can venture to claim that I am speaking, not
                                              merely the mind of the Government, but of the
+
merely the mind of the Government, but of the
                                              nation and of the empire as a whole.
+
nation and of the empire as a whole.<br><br>
                                              <p>
+
 
                                                      "We may begin by clearing away some misunderstandings and stating what we are not fighting for.
+
"We may begin by clearing away some misunderstandings and stating what we are not fighting for.
                                              We are not fighting a war of aggression against the
+
We are not fighting a war of aggression against the
                                              German people. Their leaders have persuaded them
+
German people. Their leaders have persuaded them
                                              that they are fighting a war of self-defence against
+
that they are fighting a war of self-defence against
                                              a league of rival nations bent on the destruction of
+
a league of rival nations bent on the destruction of
                                              Germany. That is not so. The destruction or disruption of Germany or the German people has never
+
Germany. That is not so. The destruction or disruption of Germany or the German people has never
                                              been a war aim with us from the first day of this
+
been a war aim with us from the first day of this
                                              war to this day. Most reluctantly, and indeed quite
+
war to this day. Most reluctantly, and indeed quite
                                              unprepared for the dreadful ordeal, we were forced
+
unprepared for the dreadful ordeal, we were forced
                                              to join in this war in self-defence. In defence of
+
to join in this war in self-defence. In defence of
                                              the violated public law of Europe, and in vindication
+
the violated public law of Europe, and in vindication
                                              of the most solemn treaty obligation on which the
+
of the most solemn treaty obligation on which the
                                              public system of Europe rested, and on which Germany had ruthlessly trampled in her invasion of
+
public system of Europe rested, and on which Germany had ruthlessly trampled in her invasion of
                                              Belgium, we had to join in the struggle or stand
+
Belgium, we had to join in the struggle or stand
                                              aside and see Europe go under and brute force triumph over public right and international justice. It
+
aside and see Europe go under and brute force triumph over public right and international justice. It
 
was only the realization of that dreadful alternative
 
was only the realization of that dreadful alternative
that forced the British people into the war.
+
that forced the British people into the war.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
          "And from that original attitude they have never
+
"And from that original attitude they have never
 
swerved. They have never aimed at the break-up of
 
swerved. They have never aimed at the break-up of
 
the German peoples or the disintegration of their
 
the German peoples or the disintegration of their
Line 91: Line 92:
 
to deprive Turkey of its capital, or of the rich and
 
to deprive Turkey of its capital, or of the rich and
 
renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which
 
renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which
are predominantly Turkish in race.
+
are predominantly Turkish in race.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "Nor did we enter this war merely to alter or
+
"Nor did we enter this war merely to alter or
 
destroy the imperial constitution of Germany, much
 
destroy the imperial constitution of Germany, much
 
as we consider that military, autocratic constitution
 
as we consider that military, autocratic constitution
Line 103: Line 104:
 
would make it much easier for us to conclude a broad
 
would make it much easier for us to conclude a broad
 
democratic peace with her. But, after all, that is a
 
democratic peace with her. But, after all, that is a
question for the Gerrnan people to decide.
+
question for the Gerrnan people to decide.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "It is now more than a year since the President of
+
"It is now more than a year since the President of
 
the United States, then neutral, addressed to the bel-
 
the United States, then neutral, addressed to the bel-
 
ligerents a suggestion that each side should state
 
ligerents a suggestion that each side should state
 
clearly the aims for which they were fighting. We
 
clearly the aims for which they were fighting. We
                                              and our allies responded by the note of the tenth of
+
and our allies responded by the note of the tenth of
                                              January, 1917.
+
January, 1917. <br><br>                                   
        <p>                                    
+
 
                                                      "To the President's appeal the Central Empires
+
"To the President's appeal the Central Empires
                                              made no reply, and in spite of many adjurations
+
made no reply, and in spite of many adjurations
                                              from their oppoltents and from neutrals, they have
+
from their oppoltents and from neutrals, they have
                                              maintained a complete silence as to the objects for
+
maintained a complete silence as to the objects for
                                              which they are fighting. Even on so crucial a matter as their intentions with regard to Belgium, they
+
which they are fighting. Even on so crucial a matter as their intentions with regard to Belgium, they have uniforrnly declined to give any trustworthy
                                              have uniforrnly declined to give any trustworthy
+
indication.<br><br>                           
                                              indication.
+
 
              <p>                              
+
"On the twenty-fifth of December last, however,
                                                      "On the twenty-fifth of December last, however,
+
Count Czernin, speaking on behalf of Austria-Hungary and her Allies, did make a pronouncement of a
                                              Count Czernin, speaking on behalf of Austria-Hungary and her Allies, did make a pronouncement of a
+
kind. It is, indeed, deplorably vague. We are told
                                              kind. It is, indeed, deplorably vague. We are told
+
that it is not the intention of the Central Powers to
                                              that it is not the intention of the Central Powers to
+
appropriate forcibly any occupied territories or to
                                              appropriate forcibly any occupied territories or to
+
rob of its independence any nation which has lost its
                                              rob of its independence any nation which has lost its
+
political independence during the war. It is obvious
                                              political independence during the war. It is obvious
+
that almost any scheme of conquest and annexation
                                              that almost any scheme of conquest and annexation
+
could be perpetrated within the literal interpretation
                                              could be perpetrated within the literal interpretation
+
of such a pledge.<br><br>                     
                                              of such a pledge.
+
                                                        
                      <p>                      
+
"Does it mean that Belgium, and Serbia, Monte-negro and Roumania will be as independent and
                                                       "Does it mean that Belgium, and Serbia, Monte-negro and Roumania will be as independent and
+
as free to direct their own destinies as the German
                                              as free to direct their own destinies as the German
+
or any other nation? Or does it mean that all man-
                                              or any other nation? Or does it mean that all man-
+
ner of interferences and restrictions, political and
                                              ner of interferences and restrictions, political and
+
economic, incompatible with the status and dignity
                                            economic, incompatible with the status and dignity
+
of a free and self-respecting people, are to be imposed? If this is the intention then there will be
                                              of a free and self-respecting people, are to be imposed? If this is the intention then there will be
+
one kind of independence for a great nation and an
                                              one kind of independence for a great nation and an
+
 
inferior kind of independence for a small nation. We
 
inferior kind of independence for a small nation. We
 
must know what is meant for equality of right
 
must know what is meant for equality of right
Line 143: Line 143:
 
fundamental issues this country and her Allies are
 
fundamental issues this country and her Allies are
 
fighting to establish in this war. Reparation for the
 
fighting to establish in this war. Reparation for the
wanton damage inflicted on Belgian towns and villages and their inhabitants is emphatically repudiated.
+
wanton damage inflicted on Belgian towns and villages and their inhabitants is emphatically repudiated.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "The rest of the so-called 'offer' of the Central
+
"The rest of the so-called 'offer' of the Central
 
Powers is almost entirely a refusal of all concessions.
 
Powers is almost entirely a refusal of all concessions.
 
All suggestions about the autonomy of subject nationalities are ruled out of the peace terms alto-
 
All suggestions about the autonomy of subject nationalities are ruled out of the peace terms alto-
Line 153: Line 153:
 
minorities 'in so far as it is practically realizable' is
 
minorities 'in so far as it is practically realizable' is
 
the nearest approach to liberty which the Central
 
the nearest approach to liberty which the Central
statesmen venture to make.
+
statesmen venture to make.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "On one point only are they perfectly clear and
+
"On one point only are they perfectly clear and
 
definite. Under no circumstances will the 'German
 
definite. Under no circumstances will the 'German
 
demand' for the restoratlon of the whole of Germany's colonies be departed from. All principles of
 
demand' for the restoratlon of the whole of Germany's colonies be departed from. All principles of
self-determination or, as our earlier phrase goes, government by consent of the governed, here vanish into thin air.
+
self-determination or, as our earlier phrase goes, government by consent of the governed, here vanish into thin air.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "It is impossible to believe that any edifice of permanent peace could be erected on such a foundation
+
"It is impossible to believe that any edifice of permanent peace could be erected on such a foundation
 
as this. Mere lip-service to the formula of no annexations and no indemnities or the right of self
 
as this. Mere lip-service to the formula of no annexations and no indemnities or the right of self
                                              determination is useless. Before any negotiations
+
determination is useless. Before any negotiations
                                              can even be begun, the Central Powers must realize
+
can even be begun, the Central Powers must realize
                                              the essential facts of the situation.
+
the essential facts of the situation.<br><br>                                     
      <p>                                      
+
                                                        
                                                       "The days of the Treaty of Vienna are long past.
+
"The days of the Treaty of Vienna are long past.
                                              We can no longer submit the future of European
+
We can no longer submit the future of European
                                              civilization to the arbitrary decisions of a few negotiators striving to secure by chicanery or persuasion
+
civilization to the arbitrary decisions of a few negotiators striving to secure by chicanery or persuasion
                                              the interests of this or that dynasty or nation. The
+
the interests of this or that dynasty or nation. The
                                              settlement of the new Europe must be based on such
+
settlement of the new Europe must be based on such
                                              grounds of reason and justice as will give some promise of stability. Therefore, it is that we feel that
+
grounds of reason and justice as will give some promise of stability. Therefore, it is that we feel that
                                              government with the consent of the governed must
+
government with the consent of the governed must
                                              be the basis of any territorial settlement in this war.
+
be the basis of any territorial settlement in this war.
                                              For that reason also, unless treaties be upheld, unless
+
For that reason also, unless treaties be upheld, unless
                                              every nation is prepared at whatever sacrifice to honour the national signature, it is obvious that no treaty
+
every nation is prepared at whatever sacrifice to honour the national signature, it is obvious that no treaty
                                              of peace can be worth the paper on which it is
+
of peace can be worth the paper on which it is
                                              written.
+
written.<br><br>                             
              <p>                              
+
                                                        
                                                       "The first requirement, therefore, always put forward by the British Government and their Allies,
+
"The first requirement, therefore, always put forward by the British Government and their Allies,
                                              has been the complete restoration, political, territorial and economic, of the independence of Belgium, and such reparation as can be made for the
+
has been the complete restoration, political, territorial and economic, of the independence of Belgium, and such reparation as can be made for the
                                              devastation of its towns and provinces. This is no                                               demand for war indemnity, such as that imposed on
+
devastation of its towns and provinces. This is no demand for war indemnity, such as that imposed on
                                              France by Germany in 1871. It is not an attempt to
+
France by Germany in 1871. It is not an attempt to
                                              shift the cost of warlike operations from one belligerent to another, which may or may not be defensible. It is no more and no less than an insistence
+
shift the cost of warlike operations from one belligerent to another, which may or may not be defensible. It is no more and no less than an insistence
                                              that, before there can be any hope for a stable peace, this great breach of the public law of Europe must
+
that, before there can be any hope for a stable peace, this great breach of the public law of Europe must
 
be repudiated and, so far as possible, repaired. Reparation means recognition. Unless international
 
be repudiated and, so far as possible, repaired. Reparation means recognition. Unless international
right is recognized by insistence on payment for injury done in defiance of its canons it can never be a reality.
+
right is recognized by insistence on payment for injury done in defiance of its canons it can never be a reality.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "Next comes the restoration of Serbia, Montenegro
+
"Next comes the restoration of Serbia, Montenegro
 
and the occupied parts of France, Italy and Roumania. The complete withdrawal of the alien armies
 
and the occupied parts of France, Italy and Roumania. The complete withdrawal of the alien armies
and the reparation for injustice done is a fundamental condition of permanent peace.
+
and the reparation for injustice done is a fundamental condition of permanent peace.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "We mean to stand by the French Democracy to the death in the demand they make for a reconsideration of the great wrong of 1871, when, without any regard to the wishes of the population, two French provinces were torn from the side of France and incorporated in the German Empire.  This sore has poisoned the peace of Europe for half a century and, until it is cured, healthy conditions will not have been restored.  There can be no better illustration of the folly and wickedness of using a transient military success to violate national right.
+
"We mean to stand by the French Democracy to the death in the demand they make for a reconsideration of the great wrong of 1871, when, without any regard to the wishes of the population, two French provinces were torn from the side of France and incorporated in the German Empire.  This sore has poisoned the peace of Europe for half a century and, until it is cured, healthy conditions will not have been restored.  There can be no better illustration of the folly and wickedness of using a transient military success to violate national right.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
        "I will not attempt to deal with the question of
+
"I will not attempt to deal with the question of
 
the Russian territories now in Gemm occupation.
 
the Russian territories now in Gemm occupation.
The Russian policy since the revolution has passed so rapidly through so many phases that it is difficult to speak without some suspension of judgment as to what the situation will be when the final terms of European peace come to be discussed.  Russian accepted war with all its horrors because, true to her traditional guardianship of the weaker communities of her race, she stepped in to protect Serbia from a plot against her independence. It is this honourable sacrifice which not merely brought Russia into the war, but France as well.  France, true to the conditions of her treaty with Russia, stood by her ally in a quarrel which was not her own.  Her chivalrous respect for her treaty led to the wanton invasion of Belgium; and the treaty obligation of Great Britain to that little land brought us into the war.
+
The Russian policy since the revolution has passed so rapidly through so many phases that it is difficult to speak without some suspension of judgment as to what the situation will be when the final terms of European peace come to be discussed.  Russian accepted war with all its horrors because, true to her traditional guardianship of the weaker communities of her race, she stepped in to protect Serbia from a plot against her independence. It is this honourable sacrifice which not merely brought Russia into the war, but France as well.  France, true to the conditions of her treaty with Russia, stood by her ally in a quarrel which was not her own.  Her chivalrous respect for her treaty led to the wanton invasion of Belgium; and the treaty obligation of Great Britain to that little land brought us into the war.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
                                  "The present rulers of Russia are now engaged without any reference to the countries whom Russia brought into the war, in separate negotiations with their common enemy.  I am indulging in no reproaches; I am merely stating facts with a view to making it clear why Britain cannot be held accountable for decisions taken in her absence and concerning which she has not been consulted or had her aid invoked.
+
"The present rulers of Russia are now engaged without any reference to the countries whom Russia brought into the war, in separate negotiations with their common enemy.  I am indulging in no reproaches; I am merely stating facts with a view to making it clear why Britain cannot be held accountable for decisions taken in her absence and concerning which she has not been consulted or had her aid invoked.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
                                              "No one who knows Prussia nd her designs upon Russia can for a moment doubt her ultimate intention.  Whatever phrases she may use to delude Russia, she does not mean to surrender one of the fair provinces or cities of Russia now occupied by her forces.  Under one name and another -- and the name hardly matters -- these Russian provinces will henceforth be in reality part of the dominions of Prussia.  They will be ruled by the Prussian sword in the interests of Prussian autocracy, and the rest of the people of Russia will be partly enticed by specious
+
"No one who knows Prussia nd her designs upon Russia can for a moment doubt her ultimate intention.  Whatever phrases she may use to delude Russia, she does not mean to surrender one of the fair provinces or cities of Russia now occupied by her forces.  Under one name and another -- and the name hardly matters -- these Russian provinces will henceforth be in reality part of the dominions of Prussia.  They will be ruled by the Prussian sword in the interests of Prussian autocracy, and the rest of the people of Russia will be partly enticed by specious
phrases and partly bullied by the threat of continued war against an impotent army into a condition
+
phrases and partly bullied by the threat of continued war against an impotent army into a condition of complete economic and ultimate political enslavement to Germany.<br><br>
of complete economic and ultimate political enslavement to Germany.
+
 
<p>
+
"We all deplore the prospect. The democracy of
        "We all deplore the prospect. The democracy of
+
this country means to stand to the last by the de mocracies of France and Italy and all our other Allies. We shall be proud to fight to the end side by
this country means to stand to the last by the de mocracies of France and Italy and all our other Allies. We shall be proud to fight to the end side by
+
side with the new democracy of Russia, so will
side with the new democracy of Russia, so will
+
America and so will France and Italy. But if the
America and so will France and Italy. But if the
+
present rulers of Russia take action which is independent of their Allies we have no means of intervening to arrest the catastrophe which is assuredly
present rulers of Russia take action which is independent of their Allies we have no means of intervening to arrest the catastrophe which is assuredly
+
befafling their country. Russia can only be saved
befafling their country. Russia can only be saved
+
by her own people.<br><br>
by her own people.
+
 
<p>
+
"We believe, however, that an independent Poland comprising all those genuinely Polish elements
        "We believe, however, that an independent Poland comprising all those genuinely Polish elements
+
who desire to form part of it, is an urgent necessity for the stability of Western Europe.<br><br>
who desire to form part of it, is an urgent necessity
+
 
for the stability of Western Europe.
+
"Similarly, though we agree with President Wilson that the break-up of Austria-Hungary is no part
<p>
+
of our war aims, we feel that unless genuine self-government on true democratic principles is granted
        "Similarly, though we agree with President Wilson that the break-up of Austria-Hungary is no part
+
to those Austro-Hungarian nationalities who have
of our war aims, we feel that unless genuine self-government on true democratic principles is granted
+
long desired it, it is impossible to hope for the removal of those causes of unrest in that part of Europe which have so long threatened its general peace.<br><br>
to those Austro-Hungarian nationalities who have
+
 
long desired it, it is impossible to hope for the removal of those causes of unrest in that part of Europe which have so long threatened its general peace.
+
"On the same grounds we regard as vital the satisfaction of the legitimate claims of the Italians for
<p>
+
union with those of their own race and tongue. We
        "On the same grounds we regard as vital the satisfaction of the legitimate claims of the Italians for
+
also mean to press that justice be done to men of
                                              union with those of their own race and tongue. We
+
Roumanian blood and speech in their legitimate aspirations.<br><br>
                                              also mean to press that justice be done to men of
+
                                       
                                              Roumanian blood and speech in their legitimate aspirations.
+
"If these conditions are fulfilled Austria-Hungary
        <p>                                      
+
would become a power whose strength would conduce to the permanent peace and freedom of Europe,
                                                      "If these conditions are fulfilled Austria-Hungary
+
instead of being merely an instrument to the pernicious military autocracy of Prussia, which uses the
                                              would become a power whose strength would conduce to the permanent peace and freedom of Europe,
+
resources of its allies for the furtherance of its own
                                              instead of being merely an instrument to the pernicious military autocracy of Prussia, which uses the
+
sinister purposes.<br><br>
                                              resources of its allies for the furtherance of its own
+
                               
                                              sinister purposes.
+
"Outside Europe, we believe that the same principles should be applied. While we do not challenge the maintenance of the Turkish Empire in the
              <p>                              
+
homelands of the Turkish race with its capital at
                                                      "Outside Europe, we believe that the same principles should be applied. While we do not challenge the maintenance of the Turkish Empire in the
+
Constantinople, the passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea being internationalized
                                              homelands of the Turkish race with its capital at
+
and neutralized, Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia,
                                              Constantinople, the passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea being internationalized
+
Syria and Palestine are in our judgment entitled to
                                              and neutralized, Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia,
+
a recognition of their separate national conditions.
                                              Syria and Palestine are in our judgment entitled to
+
What the exact form of that recognition in each particular case should be need not here be discussed, beyond stating that it would be impossible to restore
                                              a recognition of their separate national conditions.
+
to their former sovereignty the territories to which I
                                              What the exact form of that recognition in each particular case should be need not here be discussed, beyond stating that it would be impossible to restore
+
have already referred.<br><br>
                                              to their former sovereignty the territories to which I
+
                                     
                                              have already referred.
+
"Much has been said about the arrangements we
                        <p>                    
+
have entered into with our Allies on this and on
          "Much has been said about the arrangements we
+
other subjects. I can only say that as new circumstances, like the Russian collapse and the separate
                                              have entered into with our Allies on this and on
+
Russian negotiations, have changed the conditions
                                              other subjects. I can only say that as new circumstances, like the Russian collapse and the separate
+
under which those arrangements were made, we are and always have been perfectly ready to discuss them with our Allies.<br><br>
                                              Russian negotiations, have changed the conditions
+
 
under which those arrangements were made, we are and always have been perfectly ready to discuss them with our Allies.
+
:With regard to the German colonies, I have repeatedly declared that they are held at the disposal of a conference whose decision must have primary regard to the wishes and interests of the native inhabitants of such colonies.  None of those territories are inhabited by Europeans.  The governing consideration, therefore, in all these cases must be that the inhabitants should be placed under the control of an administration, acceptable to themselves, one of whose main purposes will be to prevent their exploitation for the benefit of European capitalists or governments.  The natives live in their various tribal organizations under chiefs and councils who are competent to consult and speak for their tribes and members and thus to represent their wishes and interests in regard to their disposal.  The general principle of national self-determination is, therefore, as applicable in their cases as in those of occupied European territories.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
:With regard to the German colonies, I have repeatedly declared that they are held at the disposal of a conference whose decision must have primary regard to the wishes and interests of the native inhabitants of such colonies.  None of those territories are inhabited by Europeans.  The governing consideration, therefore, in all these cases must be that the inhabitants should be placed under the control of an administration, acceptable to themselves, one of whose main purposes will be to prevent their exploitation for the benefit of European capitalists or governments.  The natives live in their various tribal organizations under chiefs and councils who are competent to consult and speak for their tribes and members and thus to represent their wishes and interests in regard to their disposal.  The general principle of national self-determination is, therefore, as applicable in their cases as in those of occupied European territories.
+
"The German declaration that the natives of the German colonies have, through their military fidelity in the war, shown their attachment and resolve under all circumstances to remain with Germany is applicable not to the German colonies generally, but only to one of them, and in that case (German East Africa) the German authorities secured the attachment, not of the native population as a whole, which is and remains profoundly anti-German, but only of a small warlike class from whom their Askaris or soldiers were selected.  These they attached to themselves by conferring on them a highly privileged position as against the bulk of the native population, which enabled these Askaris to assume a lordly and oppressive superiority over the rest of the natives.  By this and other means they secured the attachment of a very small and insignificant minority, whose interests were directly opposed to those of the rest of the population, and for whom they have no right to speak.  The German treatment of their native populations in their colonies has been such as amply to justify their fear of submitting the future of those colonies to the wishes of the natives themselves.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
"The German declaration that the natives of the German colonies have, through their military fidelity in the war, shown their attachment and resolve under all circumstances to remain with Germany is applicable not to the German colonies generally, but only to one of them, and in that case (German East Africa) the German authorities secured the attachment, not of the native population as a whole, which is and remains profoundly anti-German, but only of a small warlike class from whom their Askaris or soldiers were selected.  These they attached to themselves by conferring on them a highly privileged position as against the bulk of the native population, which enabled these Askaris to assume a lordly and oppressive superiority over the rest of the natives.  By this and other means they secured the attachment of a very small and insignificant minority, whose interests were directly opposed to those of the rest of the population, and for whom they have no right to speak.  The German treatment of their native populations in their colonies has been such as amply to justify their fear of submitting the future of those colonies to the wishes of the natives themselves.
+
"Finally, there must be reparation for injuries done in violation of international law.  The Peace Conference must not forget our seamen and the services they have rendered to, and the outrages they have suffered for the common cause of freedom.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
"Finally, there must be reparation for injuries done in violation of international law.  The Peace Conference must not forget our seamen and the services they have rendered to, and the outrages they have suffered for the common cause of freedom.
+
"One omission we notice in the proposal of the Central Powers, which seems to us especially regrettable.  It is desirable and, indeed, essential, that the settlement after this war shall be one which does not in itself bear the seed of future war.  But that is not enough.  However wisely and well we may make territorial and other arrangements, there will still be many subjects of international controversy.  Some, indeed, are inevitable.<br><br>
<p>
+
        
"One omission we notice in the proposal of the Central Powers, which seems to us especially regrettable.  It is desirable and, indeed, essential, that the settlement after this war shall be one which does not in itself bear the seed of future war.  But that is not enough.  However wisely and well we may make territorial and other arrangements, there will still be many subjects of international controversy.  Some, indeed, are inevitable.
+
"The economical conditions at the end of the war
<p>         
+
  "The economical conditions at the end of the war
+
 
will be in the highest degree difficult. Owing to the
 
will be in the highest degree difficult. Owing to the
 
diversion of human effort to warlike pursuits, there
 
diversion of human effort to warlike pursuits, there
 
must follow a world-shortage of raw materials,
 
must follow a world-shortage of raw materials,
 
which will increase the longer the war lasts, and it
 
which will increase the longer the war lasts, and it
is inevitable that those countries which have control of the raw materials will desire to help themselves and their friends first.
+
is inevitable that those countries which have control of the raw materials will desire to help themselves and their friends first.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
          "Apart from this, whatever settlement is made
+
"Apart from this, whatever settlement is made
 
will be suitable only to the circumstances under
 
will be suitable only to the circumstances under
 
which it is made and, as those circumstances change,
 
which it is made and, as those circumstances change,
changes in the settlemeht will be called for.
+
changes in the settlemeht will be called for.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
          "So long as the possibility of dispute between nations continues-that is to say, so long as men and
+
"So long as the possibility of dispute between nations continues-that is to say, so long as men and
 
women are dominated by passion and ambition, and
 
women are dominated by passion and ambition, and
 
war is the only means of settling a dispute-all nations must live under the burden, not only of having
 
war is the only means of settling a dispute-all nations must live under the burden, not only of having
Line 276: Line 274:
 
wealth and effort involved in warlike preparation,
 
wealth and effort involved in warlike preparation,
 
these are blots on our civilization of which every
 
these are blots on our civilization of which every
thinking individual must be ashamed.
+
thinking individual must be ashamed.<br><br>
<p>
+
 
          "For these and other similar reasons, we are confident that a great attempt must be made to establish
+
"For these and other similar reasons, we are confident that a great attempt must be made to establish
 
by some international organization an alternative to
 
by some international organization an alternative to
 
war as a means of settling international disputes.
 
war as a means of settling international disputes.
 
After all, war is a relic of barbarism and, just as
 
After all, war is a relic of barbarism and, just as
 
law has succeeded violence as the means of settling
 
law has succeeded violence as the means of settling
                                            disputes between individuals, so we believe that it
+
disputes between individuals, so we believe that it
                                            is destined ultimately to take the place of war in
+
is destined ultimately to take the place of war in
                                            the settlement of controversies between nations.
+
the settlement of controversies between nations.<br><br>
          <p>                                  
+
                             
                                                      "If, then, we are asked what we are fighting for,
+
"If, then, we are asked what we are fighting for,
                                            we reply as, we have often replied: we are fighting
+
we reply as, we have often replied: we are fighting
                                            for a just and lasting peace, and we believe that be
+
for a just and lasting peace, and we believe that be
                                            fore permanent peace can be hoped for three conditions must be fulfilled; firstly, the sanctity of treaties must be established; secondly, a territorial settlement must be secured, based on the right of self-determination or the consent of the governed, and,
+
fore permanent peace can be hoped for three conditions must be fulfilled; firstly, the sanctity of treaties must be established; secondly, a territorial settlement must be secured, based on the right of self-determination or the consent of the governed, and,
                                            lastly, we must seek by the creation of some international organization to limit the burden of armaments
+
lastly, we must seek by the creation of some international organization to limit the burden of armaments
                                            and diminish the probability of war.
+
and diminish the probability of war.<br><br>
            <p>                              
+
                           
                                                      "On these conditions the British Empire would
+
"On these conditions the British Empire would
                                            welcome peace; to secure these conditions its peoples
+
welcome peace; to secure these conditions its peoples
                                            are prepared to make even greater sacrifices than those
+
are prepared to make even greater sacrifices than those
                                            they have yet endured."
+
they have yet endured."
                                                 
+
</body>
+
 
<hr>
 
<hr>
<address>
+
<p align="right"> [[Main_Page | WWI Document Archive ]] > [[1918 Documents]] > '''Prime Minister Lloyd George on the British War Aims''' </p><hr>
Created: Saturday, April 26, 1997, 15:00
+
<center></center>
Last Updated: Saturday, April 26, 1997, 15:00
+
</address>
+
</html>
+

Latest revision as of 23:26, 7 July 2009

WWI Document Archive > 1918 Documents > Prime Minister Lloyd George on the British War Aims


British War Aims
Statement by the Right Honourable
David Lloyd George
January Fifth, Nineteen Hundred and Eighteen
Authorized Version as published by the British Government

New York: George H. Doran Company


When the Government," said Lloyd George, "invite organized labor in this country to assist them to maintain the might of their armies in the field, its representatives are entitled to ask that any misgivings and doubts which any of them may have about the purpose to which this precious strength is to be applied should be definitely cleared, and what is true of organized labour is equally true of all citizens in this country, without regard to grade or avocation. "When men by the million are being called upon to suffer and die, and vast populations are being subjected to the sufferings and privations of war on a scale unprecedented in the history of the world, they are entitled to know for what cause or causes they are making the sacrifice. It is only the clearest, greatest and justest of causes that can justify the continuance even for one day of this unspeakable agony of the nations, and we ought to be able to state clearly and definitely, not only the principles for which we are fighting, but also their definite and concrete application to the war map of the world.

"We have arrived at the most critical hour in this terrible conflict, and before any government takes the fateful decision as to the conditions under which it ought either to terminate or continue the struggle, it ought to be satisfied that the conscience of the nation is behind these conditions, for nothing else can sustain the effort which is necessary to achieve a righteous end to this war.


"I have, therefore, during the last few days taken special pains to ascertain the view and the attitude of representative men of all sections of thought and opinion in the country. Last week I had the privilege, not merely of perusing the Declared War Aims of the Labour Party, but also of discussing in detail with the labour leaders the meaning and intention of that declaration. I have also had an opportunity of discussing this same momentous question with Mr. Asquith and Viscount Grey. Had it not been that the Nationalist leaders are in Ireland engaged in endeavoring to solve the tangled problem of Irish self-government, I should have been happy to exchange views with them, but Mr. Redmond, speaking on their behalf, has, with his usual lucidity and force, in many of his speeches, made clear what his ideas are as to the object and purpose of the war.

"I have also had the opportunity of consulting certain representatives of the great dominions overseas.

"I am glad to be able to say, as a result of all these discussions, that, although the Government are alone responsible for the actual language I propose using, there is national agreement as to the character and purpose of our war aims and peace conditions, and in what I say to you to-day, and through you to the world, I can venture to claim that I am speaking, not merely the mind of the Government, but of the nation and of the empire as a whole.

"We may begin by clearing away some misunderstandings and stating what we are not fighting for. We are not fighting a war of aggression against the German people. Their leaders have persuaded them that they are fighting a war of self-defence against a league of rival nations bent on the destruction of Germany. That is not so. The destruction or disruption of Germany or the German people has never been a war aim with us from the first day of this war to this day. Most reluctantly, and indeed quite unprepared for the dreadful ordeal, we were forced to join in this war in self-defence. In defence of the violated public law of Europe, and in vindication of the most solemn treaty obligation on which the public system of Europe rested, and on which Germany had ruthlessly trampled in her invasion of Belgium, we had to join in the struggle or stand aside and see Europe go under and brute force triumph over public right and international justice. It was only the realization of that dreadful alternative that forced the British people into the war.

"And from that original attitude they have never swerved. They have never aimed at the break-up of the German peoples or the disintegration of their state or country. Germany has occupied a great position in the world. It is not our wish or intention to question or destroy that position for the future, but rather to turn her aside from hopes and schemes of military dornination, and to see her devote all her strength to the great beneficent tasks of the world. Nor are we fighting to destroy Austria-Hungary or to deprive Turkey of its capital, or of the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which are predominantly Turkish in race.

"Nor did we enter this war merely to alter or destroy the imperial constitution of Germany, much as we consider that military, autocratic constitution a dangerous anachronism in the Twentieth Century. Our point of view is that the adoption of a really democratic constitution by Germany would be the most convincing evidence that in her the old spirit of military domination had indeed died in this war, and would make it much easier for us to conclude a broad democratic peace with her. But, after all, that is a question for the Gerrnan people to decide.

"It is now more than a year since the President of the United States, then neutral, addressed to the bel- ligerents a suggestion that each side should state clearly the aims for which they were fighting. We and our allies responded by the note of the tenth of January, 1917.

"To the President's appeal the Central Empires made no reply, and in spite of many adjurations from their oppoltents and from neutrals, they have maintained a complete silence as to the objects for which they are fighting. Even on so crucial a matter as their intentions with regard to Belgium, they have uniforrnly declined to give any trustworthy indication.

"On the twenty-fifth of December last, however, Count Czernin, speaking on behalf of Austria-Hungary and her Allies, did make a pronouncement of a kind. It is, indeed, deplorably vague. We are told that it is not the intention of the Central Powers to appropriate forcibly any occupied territories or to rob of its independence any nation which has lost its political independence during the war. It is obvious that almost any scheme of conquest and annexation could be perpetrated within the literal interpretation of such a pledge.

"Does it mean that Belgium, and Serbia, Monte-negro and Roumania will be as independent and as free to direct their own destinies as the German or any other nation? Or does it mean that all man- ner of interferences and restrictions, political and economic, incompatible with the status and dignity of a free and self-respecting people, are to be imposed? If this is the intention then there will be one kind of independence for a great nation and an inferior kind of independence for a small nation. We must know what is meant for equality of right among nations, small as well as great, is one of the fundamental issues this country and her Allies are fighting to establish in this war. Reparation for the wanton damage inflicted on Belgian towns and villages and their inhabitants is emphatically repudiated.

"The rest of the so-called 'offer' of the Central Powers is almost entirely a refusal of all concessions. All suggestions about the autonomy of subject nationalities are ruled out of the peace terms alto- gether. The question whether any form of self-government is to be given to Arabs, Armenians or Syrians is declared to be entirely a matter for the Sublime Porte. A pious wish for the protection of minorities 'in so far as it is practically realizable' is the nearest approach to liberty which the Central statesmen venture to make.

"On one point only are they perfectly clear and definite. Under no circumstances will the 'German demand' for the restoratlon of the whole of Germany's colonies be departed from. All principles of self-determination or, as our earlier phrase goes, government by consent of the governed, here vanish into thin air.

"It is impossible to believe that any edifice of permanent peace could be erected on such a foundation as this. Mere lip-service to the formula of no annexations and no indemnities or the right of self determination is useless. Before any negotiations can even be begun, the Central Powers must realize the essential facts of the situation.

"The days of the Treaty of Vienna are long past. We can no longer submit the future of European civilization to the arbitrary decisions of a few negotiators striving to secure by chicanery or persuasion the interests of this or that dynasty or nation. The settlement of the new Europe must be based on such grounds of reason and justice as will give some promise of stability. Therefore, it is that we feel that government with the consent of the governed must be the basis of any territorial settlement in this war. For that reason also, unless treaties be upheld, unless every nation is prepared at whatever sacrifice to honour the national signature, it is obvious that no treaty of peace can be worth the paper on which it is written.

"The first requirement, therefore, always put forward by the British Government and their Allies, has been the complete restoration, political, territorial and economic, of the independence of Belgium, and such reparation as can be made for the devastation of its towns and provinces. This is no demand for war indemnity, such as that imposed on France by Germany in 1871. It is not an attempt to shift the cost of warlike operations from one belligerent to another, which may or may not be defensible. It is no more and no less than an insistence that, before there can be any hope for a stable peace, this great breach of the public law of Europe must be repudiated and, so far as possible, repaired. Reparation means recognition. Unless international right is recognized by insistence on payment for injury done in defiance of its canons it can never be a reality.

"Next comes the restoration of Serbia, Montenegro and the occupied parts of France, Italy and Roumania. The complete withdrawal of the alien armies and the reparation for injustice done is a fundamental condition of permanent peace.

"We mean to stand by the French Democracy to the death in the demand they make for a reconsideration of the great wrong of 1871, when, without any regard to the wishes of the population, two French provinces were torn from the side of France and incorporated in the German Empire. This sore has poisoned the peace of Europe for half a century and, until it is cured, healthy conditions will not have been restored. There can be no better illustration of the folly and wickedness of using a transient military success to violate national right.

"I will not attempt to deal with the question of the Russian territories now in Gemm occupation. The Russian policy since the revolution has passed so rapidly through so many phases that it is difficult to speak without some suspension of judgment as to what the situation will be when the final terms of European peace come to be discussed. Russian accepted war with all its horrors because, true to her traditional guardianship of the weaker communities of her race, she stepped in to protect Serbia from a plot against her independence. It is this honourable sacrifice which not merely brought Russia into the war, but France as well. France, true to the conditions of her treaty with Russia, stood by her ally in a quarrel which was not her own. Her chivalrous respect for her treaty led to the wanton invasion of Belgium; and the treaty obligation of Great Britain to that little land brought us into the war.

"The present rulers of Russia are now engaged without any reference to the countries whom Russia brought into the war, in separate negotiations with their common enemy. I am indulging in no reproaches; I am merely stating facts with a view to making it clear why Britain cannot be held accountable for decisions taken in her absence and concerning which she has not been consulted or had her aid invoked.

"No one who knows Prussia nd her designs upon Russia can for a moment doubt her ultimate intention. Whatever phrases she may use to delude Russia, she does not mean to surrender one of the fair provinces or cities of Russia now occupied by her forces. Under one name and another -- and the name hardly matters -- these Russian provinces will henceforth be in reality part of the dominions of Prussia. They will be ruled by the Prussian sword in the interests of Prussian autocracy, and the rest of the people of Russia will be partly enticed by specious phrases and partly bullied by the threat of continued war against an impotent army into a condition of complete economic and ultimate political enslavement to Germany.

"We all deplore the prospect. The democracy of this country means to stand to the last by the de mocracies of France and Italy and all our other Allies. We shall be proud to fight to the end side by side with the new democracy of Russia, so will America and so will France and Italy. But if the present rulers of Russia take action which is independent of their Allies we have no means of intervening to arrest the catastrophe which is assuredly befafling their country. Russia can only be saved by her own people.

"We believe, however, that an independent Poland comprising all those genuinely Polish elements who desire to form part of it, is an urgent necessity for the stability of Western Europe.

"Similarly, though we agree with President Wilson that the break-up of Austria-Hungary is no part of our war aims, we feel that unless genuine self-government on true democratic principles is granted to those Austro-Hungarian nationalities who have long desired it, it is impossible to hope for the removal of those causes of unrest in that part of Europe which have so long threatened its general peace.

"On the same grounds we regard as vital the satisfaction of the legitimate claims of the Italians for union with those of their own race and tongue. We also mean to press that justice be done to men of Roumanian blood and speech in their legitimate aspirations.

"If these conditions are fulfilled Austria-Hungary would become a power whose strength would conduce to the permanent peace and freedom of Europe, instead of being merely an instrument to the pernicious military autocracy of Prussia, which uses the resources of its allies for the furtherance of its own sinister purposes.

"Outside Europe, we believe that the same principles should be applied. While we do not challenge the maintenance of the Turkish Empire in the homelands of the Turkish race with its capital at Constantinople, the passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea being internationalized and neutralized, Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine are in our judgment entitled to a recognition of their separate national conditions. What the exact form of that recognition in each particular case should be need not here be discussed, beyond stating that it would be impossible to restore to their former sovereignty the territories to which I have already referred.

"Much has been said about the arrangements we have entered into with our Allies on this and on other subjects. I can only say that as new circumstances, like the Russian collapse and the separate Russian negotiations, have changed the conditions under which those arrangements were made, we are and always have been perfectly ready to discuss them with our Allies.

With regard to the German colonies, I have repeatedly declared that they are held at the disposal of a conference whose decision must have primary regard to the wishes and interests of the native inhabitants of such colonies. None of those territories are inhabited by Europeans. The governing consideration, therefore, in all these cases must be that the inhabitants should be placed under the control of an administration, acceptable to themselves, one of whose main purposes will be to prevent their exploitation for the benefit of European capitalists or governments. The natives live in their various tribal organizations under chiefs and councils who are competent to consult and speak for their tribes and members and thus to represent their wishes and interests in regard to their disposal. The general principle of national self-determination is, therefore, as applicable in their cases as in those of occupied European territories.

"The German declaration that the natives of the German colonies have, through their military fidelity in the war, shown their attachment and resolve under all circumstances to remain with Germany is applicable not to the German colonies generally, but only to one of them, and in that case (German East Africa) the German authorities secured the attachment, not of the native population as a whole, which is and remains profoundly anti-German, but only of a small warlike class from whom their Askaris or soldiers were selected. These they attached to themselves by conferring on them a highly privileged position as against the bulk of the native population, which enabled these Askaris to assume a lordly and oppressive superiority over the rest of the natives. By this and other means they secured the attachment of a very small and insignificant minority, whose interests were directly opposed to those of the rest of the population, and for whom they have no right to speak. The German treatment of their native populations in their colonies has been such as amply to justify their fear of submitting the future of those colonies to the wishes of the natives themselves.

"Finally, there must be reparation for injuries done in violation of international law. The Peace Conference must not forget our seamen and the services they have rendered to, and the outrages they have suffered for the common cause of freedom.

"One omission we notice in the proposal of the Central Powers, which seems to us especially regrettable. It is desirable and, indeed, essential, that the settlement after this war shall be one which does not in itself bear the seed of future war. But that is not enough. However wisely and well we may make territorial and other arrangements, there will still be many subjects of international controversy. Some, indeed, are inevitable.

"The economical conditions at the end of the war will be in the highest degree difficult. Owing to the diversion of human effort to warlike pursuits, there must follow a world-shortage of raw materials, which will increase the longer the war lasts, and it is inevitable that those countries which have control of the raw materials will desire to help themselves and their friends first.

"Apart from this, whatever settlement is made will be suitable only to the circumstances under which it is made and, as those circumstances change, changes in the settlemeht will be called for.

"So long as the possibility of dispute between nations continues-that is to say, so long as men and women are dominated by passion and ambition, and war is the only means of settling a dispute-all nations must live under the burden, not only of having from time to time to engage in it, but of being compelled to prepare for its possible outbreak. The crushing weight of modern armaments, the increasing evil of compulsory military service, the vast waste of wealth and effort involved in warlike preparation, these are blots on our civilization of which every thinking individual must be ashamed.

"For these and other similar reasons, we are confident that a great attempt must be made to establish by some international organization an alternative to war as a means of settling international disputes. After all, war is a relic of barbarism and, just as law has succeeded violence as the means of settling disputes between individuals, so we believe that it is destined ultimately to take the place of war in the settlement of controversies between nations.

"If, then, we are asked what we are fighting for, we reply as, we have often replied: we are fighting for a just and lasting peace, and we believe that be fore permanent peace can be hoped for three conditions must be fulfilled; firstly, the sanctity of treaties must be established; secondly, a territorial settlement must be secured, based on the right of self-determination or the consent of the governed, and, lastly, we must seek by the creation of some international organization to limit the burden of armaments and diminish the probability of war.

"On these conditions the British Empire would welcome peace; to secure these conditions its peoples are prepared to make even greater sacrifices than those they have yet endured."


WWI Document Archive > 1918 Documents > Prime Minister Lloyd George on the British War Aims


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