Premier Lloyd George's Guildhall Address, January 11, 1917

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WWI Document Archive > 1916 Documents > Official Communications and Speeches Relating to Peace Proposals 1916-1917 > Premier Lloyd George's Guildhall Address, January 11, 1917

Premier Lloyd George's Guildhall Address, January 11, 19171

     The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his extremely lucid and im-
pressive speech, has placed before you the business side of his proposal,
and I think you will agree with me, after his explanation of his scheme,
that he has offered for subscription a Loan which contains all the
essential ingredients of an attractive investment. They are the most
generous terms the Government could offer without injury to the
taxpayer. I agree that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was right
in offering such liberal terms, because it is important that we should
secure a big loan now — not merely in order to enable us to finance
the war effectively, but as a demonstration of the continued resolve of
this country to prosecute it. And it is upon that aspect of the ques-
tion that I should like to say a few words.
     The German Kaiser a few days ago sent a message to his people
that the Allies had rejected his peace offer. He did so in order to
drug those whom he can no longer dragoon. Where are those offers?
We have asked for them. We have never seen them. We were
not offered terms; we were offered a trap baited with fair words.
They tempted us once, but the Lion has his eyes open now. We
have rejected no terms that we have ever seen. Of course, it would
suit them to have peace at the present moment on their own terms.
We all want peace; but when we get it, it must be a real peace.
The Allied Powers separately, and in council together, have come
to the same conclusion. Knowing well what war means, knowing
especially what this war means in suffering, in burdens, in horror,
they have decided that even war is better than peace — peace at the
Prussian price of domination over Europe. We made that clear in
our reply to Germany; we made it still clearer in our reply to the
United States of America. Before we attempt to rebuild the temple
of peace we must see now that the foundations are solid. They
were built before upon the shifting sands of Prussian faith; hence-
forth, when the time for rebuilding comes, it must be on the rock
of vindicated justice.
     I have just returned from a council of war of the four great Allied
countries upon whose shoulders most of the burden of this terrible
war falls. I can not give you the conclusions: there might be useful
information in them for the enemy. There were no delusions as
to the magnitude of our task; neither were there any doubts about
the result. I think I could say what was the feeling of every man
there. It was one of the most business-like conferences that I ever
attended. We faced the whole situation, probed it thoroughly, looked
the difficulties in the face, and made arrangements to deal with them
— and we separated more confident than ever. All felt that if vic-
tory were difficult, defeat was impossible. There was no flinching,
no wavering, no faint-heartedness, no infirmity of purpose. There
was a grim resolution at all costs that we must achieve the high aim
with which we accepted the challenge of the Prussian military caste
and rid Europe and the world for ever of its menace. No country
could have refused that challenge without loss of honour. No one
could have rejected it without impairing national security. No one
could have failed to take it up without forfeiting something which
is of greater value to every free and self-respecting people than
life itself.
     These nations did not enter into the war light-heartedly. They
did not embark upon this enterprise without knowing what it really
meant. They were not induced by the prospect of an easy victory.
Take this country. The millions of our men who enrolled in the
Army enlisted after the German victories of August, 1914 — when
they knew the accumulative and concentrated power of the German
military machine. That is when they placed their lives at the disposal
of their country. What about other nations? They knew what
they were encountering, that they were fighting an organization
which had been perfected for generations by the best brains of
Prussia, perfected with one purpose — the subjugation of Europe.
And yet they faced it. Why did they do it? I passed through
hundreds of miles of the beautiful lands of France and of Italy, and
as I did so I asked myself this question, Why did the peasants leave
by the million these sunny vineyards and cornfields in France —
why did they quit these enchanting valleys, with their comfort, and
their security, their calm in Italy — in order to face the dreary and
wild horrors of the battlefield? They did it for one purpose and
one purpose only. They were not driven to the slaughter by kings.
These are great democratic countries. No Government could have
lasted twenty-four hours that had forced them into an abhorrent war.
Of their own free will they embarked upon it, because they knew a
fundamental issue had been raised which no country could have
shirked without imperilling all that has been won in the centuries
of the past and all that remains to be won in the ages of the future.
That is why, as the war proceeds, and the German purpose be-
comes more manifest, the conviction has become deeper in the minds
of these people that they must break their way through to victory in
order to save Europe from unspeakable despotism. That was the spirit
which animated the Allied Conference at Rome last week.
     But I will tell you one thing that struck me, and strikes me more
and more each time that I visit the Continent and attend these con-
ferences. That is the increasing extent to which the Allied peo-
ples are looking to Great Britain. They are trusting to her rugged
strength, to her great resources, more and more. To them she
looks like a great tower in the deep. She is becoming more and
more the hope of the oppressed and the despair of the oppressor,
and I feel more and more confident that we shall not fail the peo-
ple who put their trust in us. When that arrogant Prussian caste
flung the signature of Britain to a treaty into the waste-paper basket
as if it were of no account, they knew not the pride of the land
they were treating with such insolent disdain. They know it now.
Our soldiers and sailors have taught them to respect it.
     You have heard the eloquent account of the Chancellor of the
Exchequer of the achievements of our soldiers. Our sailors are
gallantly defending the honour of our country on the high seas
of the world. They have strangled the enemy's commerce, and will
continue to do so, in spite of all the piratical devices of the foe.
In 1914 and 1915, for two years, a small, ill-equipped Army held
up the veterans of Prussia with the best equipment in Europe. In
1916 they hurled them back, and delivered a blow from which they
are reeling. In 1917 the Armies of Britain will be more formidable
than ever in training, in efficiency, and in equipment, and you may
depend upon it that if we give them the necessary support they
will cleave a road to victory through all the dangers and perils of
the next few months.
     But we must support them. They are worth it. Have you ever
talked to a soldier who has come back from the front? There is
not one of them who will not tell you how he is encouraged and
sustained by hearing the roar of the guns behind him. This is what
I want to see: I want to see cheques hurtling through the air, fired
from the city of London, from every city, town, village, and ham-
let throughout the land, fired straight into the intrenchments of the
enemy. Every well-directed cheque, well loaded, properly primed,
is a more formidable weapon of destruction than a 12-in. shell. It
clears the path of the barbed wire entanglements for our gallant
fellows to march through. A big loan helps to ensure victory. A
big loan will also shorten the war. It will help to save life; it will
help to save the British Empire; it will help to save Europe; it will
help to save civilization. That is why we want the country to rise
to this occasion, and show that the old spirit of Britain, represented
by this great British meeting, is still as alive and as alert and as potent
as ever.
     I want to appeal to the men at home, and to the women also.
They have done their part nobly. A man who has been Munitions
Minister for twelve months must feel a debt of gratitude to the women
for what they have done. They have helped to win, and without
them we could not have done it. I want to make a special appeal,
or, rather, to enforce the special appeal of the Chancellor of the
Exchequer. Let no money be squandered in luxury and indulgence
which can be put into the fight — and it can, every penny of it.
Every ounce counts in this fight. Do not waste it. Do not throw
it away. Put it there to help the valour of our brave young boys.
Back them up. Let us contribute to assist them. Have greater
pride in them than in costlier garments. They will feel prouder
of their mothers to-day, and their pride in them will grow in years
to come when the best garments will have rotted. It will glisten
and glitter. It will improve with the years. They can put it on
with old age and say, "This is something I contributed in the Great
War," and they will be proud of it.
     Men and women of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the
first charge — the first charge — upon all your surplus money over
your needs for yourselves and your children should be to help those
gallant young men of ours who have tendered their lives for the cause
of humanity. The more we get the surer the victory. The more we
get the shorter the war. The more we get the less it will cost in treas-
ure, and the greatest treasure of all, brave blood. The more we give the
more will the nation gain. You will enrich it by your contributions
— by your sacrifices. Extravagance — I want to bring this home to
every man and woman throughout these Islands — extravagance dur-
ing the war costs blood — costs blood. And what blood? Valiant
blood — the blood of heroes. It would be worth millions to save one
of them. A big loan will save myriads of them; help them not merely
to win; help them to come home to shout for the victory which they
have won. It means better equipment for our troops. It means
better equipment for the Allies as well, and this — and I say it now for
the fiftieth, if not for the hundredth time — is a war of equipment.
That is why we are appealing for your subscriptions. We can do
that. Most of us could not do more. But what we can do it is our
duty, it is our pride to do.
     I said it was a war of equipment. Why are the Germans pressing
back our gallant Allies in Roumania? It is not that they are bet-
ter fighters. They are certainly not. The Roumanian peasant has
proved himself to be one of the doughtiest fighters in the field when
he has a chance, poor fellow, and he never had much. As for the
Russian, the way in which with bare breast he has fought for two
years and a half, with inferior guns, insufficient rifles, inadequate sup-
plies of ammunition, is one of the world's tales of heroism. Let us
help to equip them, and there will be another story to tell soon.
     That is why I am glad to follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer
in the appeal which he has made to the patriotism of our race.
But with true Scottish instincts he put the appeal to produce
first. He laid it down as a good foundation for patriotism and re-
served that for his peroration. I shall reverse the order, belonging
to a less canny race. I want to say it is a good investment. After
all, the old country is the best investment in the world. It was a
sound concern before the war; it will be sounder and safer than
ever after the war, and especially safer. I do not know the nation
that will care to touch it after the war. They had forgotten what we
were like in those days; it will take them a long time to forget this
lesson. It will be a safer investment than ever and a sounder one.
Have you been watching what has been going on? Before the
war we had a good many shortcomings in our business, our com-
merce and our industry. The war is setting them all right in the
most marvelous way. You ask great business men like my friend
Lord Pirrie, whom I see there in the corner, what is going on in the
factories throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Old machinery
scrapped, the newest and the best set up; slip-shod, wasteful methods
also scrapped, hampering customs discontinued; millions brought into
the labour market to help to produce who before were merely con-
sumers. I do not know what the National Debt will be at the end
of this war but I will make this prediction. Whatever it is, what
is added in real assets to the real riches of the nation will be infinitely
greater than any debt that we shall ever acquire. The resources
of the nation in every direction developed, directed, perfected, the
nation itself disciplined, braced up, quickened, we have become a more
alert people. We have thrown off useless tissues. We are a nation
that has been taking exercise. We are a different people.
     I will tell you another difference. The Prussian menace was a
running mortgage which detracted from the value of our national
security. Nobody knew what it meant. We know pretty well now.
You could not tell whether it meant a mortgage of hundreds of mil-
lions, or thousands of millions, and I know you could not tell it
would not mean ruin. That mortgage will be cleared off forever
and there will be a better security, a better, sounder, safer security,
at a better rate of interest. The world will then be able, when the
war is over, to attend to its business. There will be no war or
rumours of war to disturb and to distract it. We can build up;
we can reconstruct; we can till and cultivate and enrich; and the
burden and terror and waste of war will have gone. The best se-
curity for peace will be that nations will band themselves together
to punish the first peace-breaker. In the armouries of Europe every
weapon will be a sword of justice. In the government of men every
army will be the constabulary of peace.
     There were men who hoped to see this achieved in the ways of
peace. We were disappointed. It was ordained that we should not
reach that golden era except along a path which itself was paved with
gold, yea, and cemented with valiant blood. There are myriads who
have given the latter, and there are myriads more ready for the sac-
rifice if their country needs it. It is for us to contribute the former.
Let no man and no woman, in this crisis of their nation's fate, through
indolence, greed, avarice, or selfishness, fail. And if they do their
part, then, when the time comes for the triumphal march through the
darkness and the terror of night into the bright dawn of the morning
of the new age, they will each feel that they have their share in it.

1The Times, London, January 12, 1917