Carroll Quigley
The Anglo-American Establishment

12 continued

More important than the Milner Group’s ability to influence opinion in the Dominions was its ability to influence decisions in London.  In much of this latter field, Lord Esher undoubtedly played an important role.  It is perfectly clear that Lord Esher disliked collective security, and for the same reasons as The Round Table.  This can be seen in his published Journals and Letters.  For example, on 18 February 1919, in a letter to Hankey, he wrote:  “I fervently believe that the happiness and welfare of the human race is more closely concerned in the evolution of English democracy and of our Imperial Commonwealth than in the growth of any international League.”  On 7 December 1919, in another letter to Hankey, he wrote:  “You say that my letter was critical and not constructive.  So it was.  But the ground must be cleared of debris first.  I assume that this is done.  We will forget the high ideals and the fourteen points for the moment.  We will be eminently practical.  So here goes.  Do not let us bother about a League of Nations.  It may come slowly or not at all.  What step forward, if any, can we take ?  We can get a League of Empire.”  Shortly afterwards, writing to his heir, the present Viscount Esher, he called the League “a paper hoop.”  The importance of this can be seen if we realize that Lord Esher was the most important factor on the Committee of Imperial Defence, and this committee was one of the chief forces determining British foreign policy in this period.  In fact, no less an authority than Lord Robert Cecil has said that the Geneva Protocol was rejected on the advice of the Committee of Imperial Defence and that he accepted that decision only when he was promised a new project which subsequently became the Locarno Pacts.[8]

The rejection of the Protocol by Britain was regarded subsequently by real supporters of the League as the turning point in its career.  There was an outburst of public sentiment against this selfish and cold-blooded action.  Zimmern, who knew more than he revealed, went to Oxford in May 1925 and made a brilliant speech against those who were sabotaging the League.  He did not identify them, but clearly indicated their existence, and, as the cruelest blow of all, attributed their actions to a failure of intelligence.

As a result of this feeling, which was widespread throughout the world, the Group determined to give the world the appearance of a guarantee to France.  This was done in the Locarno Pacts, the most complicated and most deceitful international agreement made between the Treaty of Versailles and the Munich Pact.  We cannot discuss them in detail here, but must content ourselves with pointing out that in appearance, and in the publicity campaign which accompanied their formation, the Locarno agreements guaranteed the frontier of Germany with France and Belgium with the power of these three states plus Britain and Italy.  In reality the agreements gave France nothing, while they gave Britain a veto over French fulfillment of her alliances with Poland and the Little Entente.  The French accepted these deceptive documents for reasons of internal politics:  obviously, any French government which could make the French people believe that it had been able to secure a British guarantee of France’s eastern frontier could expect the gratitude of the French people to be reflected at the polls.  The fundamental shrewdness and realism of the French, however, made it difficult to conceal from them the trap that lay in the Locarno agreements.  This trap consisted of several interlocking factors.  In the first place, the agreements did not guarantee the German frontier and the demilitarized condition of the Rhineland against German actions, but against the actions of either Germany or France.  This, at one stroke, gave Britain the legal grounds for opposing France if she tried any repetition of the military occupation of the Ruhr, and, above all, gave Britain the right to oppose any French action against Germany in support of her allies to the east of Germany.  This meant that if Germany moved east against Czechoslovakia, Poland, and, eventually, Russia, and if France attacked Germany’s western frontier in support of Czechoslovakia or Poland, as her alliances bound her to do, Great Britain, Belgium, and Italy might be bound by the Locarno Pacts to come to the aid of Germany.  To be sure, the same agreement might bind these three powers to oppose Germany if she drove westward against France, but the Milner Group did not object to this for several reasons.  In the first place, if Germany attacked France directly, Britain would have to come to the help of France whether bound by treaty or not.  The old balance-of-power principle made that clear.  In the second place, Cecil Hurst, the old master of legalistic doubletalk, drew up the Locarno Pacts with the same kind of loopholes which he had put in the crucial articles of the Covenant.  As a result, if Germany did violate the Locarno Pacts against France, Britain could, if she desired, escape the necessity of fulfilling her guarantee by slipping through one of Hurst’s loopholes.  As a matter of fact, when Hitler did violate the Locarno agreements by remilitarizing the Rhineland in March 1936, the Milner Group and their friends did not even try to evade their obligation by slipping through a loophole, but simply dishonored their agreement.

This event of March 1936, by which Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, was the most crucial event in the whole history of appeasement.  So long as the territory west of the Rhine and a strip fifty kilometers wide on the east bank of the river were demilitarized, as provided in the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pacts, Hitler would never have dared to move against Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.  He would not have dared because, with western Germany unfortified and denuded of German soldiers, France could have easily driven into the Ruhr industrial area and crippled Germany so that it would be impossible to go eastward.  And by this date, certain members of the Milner Group and of the British Conservative government had reached the fantastic idea that they could kill two birds with one stone by setting Germany and Russia against one another in Eastern Europe.  In this way they felt that the two enemies would stalemate one another, or that Germany would become satisfied with the oil of Rumania and the wheat of the Ukraine.  It never occurred to anyone in a responsible position that Germany and Russia might make common cause, even temporarily, against the West.  Even less did it occur to them that Russia might beat Germany and thus open all Central Europe to Bolshevism.

This idea of bringing Germany into a collision with Russia was not to be found, so far as the evidence shows, among any members of the inner circle of the Milner Group.  Rather it was to be found among the personal associates of Neville Chamberlain, including several members of the second circle of the Milner Group.  The two policies followed parallel courses until March 1939.  After that date the Milner Group’s disintegration became very evident, and part of it took the form of the movement of several persons (like Hoare and Simon) from the second circle of the Milner Group to the inner circle of the new group rotating around Chamberlain.  This process was concealed by the fact that this new group was following, in public at least, the policy desired by the Milner Group;  their own policy, which was really the continuation of appeasement for another year after March 1939, was necessarily secret, so that the contrast between the Chamberlain group and the inner circle of the Milner Group in the period after March 1939 was not as obvious as it might have been.

In order to carry out this plan of allowing Germany to drive eastward against Russia, it was necessary to do three things:  (1) to liquidate all the countries standing between Germany and Russia;  (2) to prevent France from honoring her alliances with these countries;  and (3) to hoodwink the English people into accepting this as a necessary, indeed, the only solution to the international problem.  The Chamberlain group were so successful in all three of these things that they came within an ace of succeeding, and failed only because of the obstinacy of the Poles, the unseemly haste of Hitler, and the fact that at the eleventh hour the Milner Group realized the implications of their policy and tried to reverse it.

The program of appeasement can be divided into three stages:  the first from 1920 to 1934, the second from 1934 to 1937, and the third from 1937 to 1940.  The story of the first period we have almost completed, except for the evacuation of the Rhineland in 1930, five years ahead of the date set in the Treaty of Versailles.  It would be too complicated a story to narrate here the methods by which France was persuaded to yield on this point.  It is enough to point out that France was persuaded to withdraw her troops in 1930 rather than 1935 as a result of what she believed to be concessions made to her in the Young Plan.  That the Milner Group approved this evacuation goes without saying.  We have already mentioned The Round Table’s demand of June 1923 that the Rhineland be evacuated.  A similar desire will be found in a letter from John Dove to Brand in October 1927.

The second period of appeasement began with Smuts’s famous speech of 13 November 1934, delivered before the RIIA.  The whole of this significant speech deserves to be quoted here, but we must content ourselves with a few extracts:

With all the emphasis at my command, I would call a halt to this war talk as mischievous and dangerous war propaganda.  The expectation of war tomorrow or in the near future is sheer nonsense, and all those who are conversant with affairs know it.... The remedy for this fear complex is ... bringing it into the open and exposing it to the light of day.... And this is exactly the method of the League of Nations ... it is an open forum for discussion among the nations, it is a round table for the statesmen around which they can ventilate and debate their grievances and viewpoints.... There are those who say that this is not enough-that as long as the League remains merely a talking shop or debating society, and is not furnished with “teeth” and proper sanctions, the sense of insecurity will remain.... It is also felt that the inability of the League to guarantee the collective system by means of force, if necessary, is discrediting it and leading to its decay. ... I cannot visualize the League as a military machine.  It was not conceived or built for that purpose, it is not equipped for such functions.  And if ever the attempt were made to transform it into a military machine, into a system to carry on war for the purpose of preventing war, I think its fate is sealed.... Defection of the United States has largely defeated its main objects.  And the joining up of the United States must continue to be the ultimate goal of all true friends of the League and of the cause of peace.  A conference of the nations the United States can, and eventually will, join;  it can never join an international War Office.  Remembering the debates on this point in the League of Nations Commission which drafted the Covenant, I say quite definitely that the very idea of a league of force was negatived there;  and the League would be quite false to its fundamental idea and to its great mission ... if it allowed itself to be turned into something quite different, something just the opposite of its original idea—into a league of force. ... To endeavor to cast out the Satan of fear by calling in the Beelzebub of militarism, and militarizing the League itself, would be a senseless and indeed fatal proceeding.... The removal of the inferiority complex from Germany is just as essential to future peace as the removal of fear from the mind of France;  and both are essential to an effective disarmament policy.  How can the inferiority complex which is obsessing and, I fear, poisoning the mind and indeed the soul of Germany be removed ?  There is only one way, and that is to recognize her complete equality of status with her fellows, and to do so frankly, freely, and unreservedly.  That is the only medicine for her disease. ... While one understands and sympathizes with French fears, one cannot but feel for Germany in the position of inferiority in which she still remains sixteen years after the conclusion of the War.  The continuance of her Versailles status is becoming an offense to the conscience of Europe and a danger to future peace.... There is no place in international law for second-rate nations, and least of all should Germany be kept in that position.... Fair play, sportsmanship — indeed, every standard of private and public life — calls for frank revision of the position.  Indeed, ordinary prudence makes it imperative.  Let us break those bonds and set the captive, obsessed, soul free in a decent human way.  And Europe will reap a rich reward in tranquillity, security, and returning prosperity.... I would say that to me the future policy and association of our great British Commonwealth lie more with the United States than with any other group in the world.  If ever there comes a parting of the ways, if ever in the crisis of the future we are called upon to make a choice, that, it seems to me, should be the company we should prefer to walk with and march with to the unknown future.... Nobody can forecast the outcome of the stormy era of history on which we are probably entering.

At the time that Smuts made this significant speech, the Milner Group had already indicated to Hitler officially that Britain was prepared to give Germany arms equality.  France had greeted the arrival to power of Hitler by desperate efforts to form an “Eastern Locarno” against Germany.  Sir John Simon, who was Foreign Secretary from September 1931 to June 1935, repudiated these efforts on 13 July 1934 in a speech which was approved by The Times the following day.  He warned the French that Britain would not approve any effort “to build up one combination against another,” would refuse to assume any new obligations herself, would insist that Russia join the League of Nations before she become a party to any multilateral settlement, and insisted on arms equality for Germany.  On the same day, Austen Chamberlain laid the groundwork for the German remilitarization of the Rhineland by a speech in which he insisted that the Locarno agreements did not bind Britain to use troops.  He clearly indicated how Britain, by her veto power in the Council of the League, could prevent a League request to provide troops to enforce Locarno, and added that such a request would not be binding on Britain, even if voted, since “there was no automatic obligation under the Government to send our Army to any frontier.”

In a debate in the House of Lords on 5 December 1934, Lord Cecil contradicted Smuts’s statement that “the idea of a League of force was negatived” in 1918 and restated his own views that force should be available to compel the observance of the three months’ moratorium between the settlement of a question by the Council and the outbreak of war.  He said:  “The thing which we were most anxious to secure against a renewal of a great war was that there should be collective action to prevent a sudden outbreak of war.  It was never part of the Covenant system that force should be used in order to compel some particular settlement of a dispute.  That, we thought, was going beyond what public opinion of the world would support;  but we did think we could go so far as to say:  ‘You are not to resort to war until every other means for bringing about a settlement has been exhausted.'”  This was merely a restatement of the point of view that Lord Cecil had held since 1918.  It did not constitute collective security, as the expression was used by the world in general.  Yet this use of the words “collective security” to mean the enforcement of a three months’ moratorium before issuing a declaration of war—this weaker meaning—was being weakened even further by the Milner Group.  This was made perfectly clear in a speech by Lord Lothian (Philip Kerr) immediately after Lord Cecil.  On this day the latter parted from the Milner Group program of appeasement;  more than ten years after Zimmern’s, this defection is of less significance than the earlier one because Lord Cecil did not see clearly what was being done and he had never been, apparently, a member of the inner circle of the Group, although he had attended meetings of the inner circle in the period after 1910.[9]

Lord Lothian’s speech of 5 December 1934 in the House of Lords is, at first glance, a defense of collective security, but a second look shows clearly that by “collective security” the speaker meant appeasement.  He contrasts collective security with power diplomacy and, having excluded all use of force under the former expression, goes on to interpret it to mean peaceful change without war.  In the context of events, this could only mean appeasement of Germany.  He said:  “In international affairs, unless changes are made in time, war becomes inevitable.... If the collective system is to be successful, it must contain two elements.  On the one hand, it must be able to bring about by pacific means alterations in the international structure, and, on the other hand, it must be strong enough to restrain Powers who seek to take the law into their own hands either by war or by power diplomacy, from being successful in their efforts.”  This was nothing but the appeasement program of Chamberlain and Halifax—that concessions should be made to Germany to strengthen her on the Continent and in Eastern Europe, while Britain should remain strong enough on the sea and in the air to prevent Hitler from using war to obtain these concessions.  The fear of Hitler’s using war was based not so much on a dislike of force (neither Lothian nor Halifax was a pacifist in that sense) but on the realization that if Hitler made war against Austria, Czechoslovakia, or Poland, public opinion in France and England might force their governments to declare war in spite of their desire to yield these areas to Germany.  This, of course, is what finally happened.

Hitler was given ample assurance by the Milner Group, both within and without the government, that Britain would not oppose his efforts “to achieve arms equality.”  Four days before Germany officially denounced the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, Leopold Amery made a slashing attack on collective security, comparing “the League which exists” and “the league of make-believe, a cloud cuckoo land, dreams of a millennium which we were not likely to reach for many a long year to come;  a league which was to maintain peace by going to war whenever peace was disturbed.  That sort of thing, if it could exist, would be a danger to peace;  it would be employed to extend war rather than to put an end to it.  But dangerous or not, it did not exist, and to pretend that it did exist was sheer stupidity.”

Four days later, Hitler announced Germany’s rearmament, and ten days after that, Britain condoned the act by sending Sir John Simon on a state visit to Berlin.  When France tried to counterbalance Germany’s rearmament by bringing the Soviet Union into her eastern alliance system in May 1935, the British counteracted this by making the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 18 June 1935.  This agreement, concluded by Simon, allowed Germany to build up to 35 percent of the size of the British Navy (and up to 100 percent in submarines).  This was a deadly stab in the back to France, for it gave Germany a navy considerably larger than the French in the important categories of ships (capital ships and aircraft carriers) in the North Sea, because France was bound by treaty in these categories to only 33 percent of Britain’s;  and France, in addition, had a worldwide empire to protect and the unfriendly Italian Navy off her Mediterranean coast.  This agreement put the French Atlantic coast so completely at the mercy of the German Navy that France became completely dependent on the British fleet for protection in this area.  Obviously, this protection would not be given unless France in a crisis renounced her eastern allies.  As if this were not enough, Britain in March 1936 accepted the German remilitarization of the Rhineland and in August 1936 began the farcical nonintervention agreement in Spain, which put another unfriendly government on France’s remaining land frontier.  Under such pressure, it was clear that France would not honor her alliances with the Czechs, the Poles, or the Russians, if they came due.

In these actions of March 1935 and March 1936, Hitler was running no risk, for the government and the Milner Group had assured him beforehand that it would accept his actions.  This was done both in public and in private, chiefly in the House of Commons and in the articles of The Times.  Within the Cabinet, Halifax, Simon, and Hoare resisted the effort to form any alignment against Germany.  The authorized biographer of Halifax wrote in reference to Halifax’s attitude in 1935 and 1936:

“Was England to allow herself to be drawn into war because France had alliances in Eastern Europe ?  Was she to give Mussolini a free pass to Addis Ababa merely to prevent Hitler marching to Vienna?”  Questions similar to these were undoubtedly posed by Halifax in Cabinet.  His own friends, in particular Lothian and Geoffrey Dawson of The Times, had for some time been promoting Anglo-German fellowship with rather more fervour than the Foreign Office.  In January 1935 Lothian had a long conversation with Hitler, and Hitler was reputed to have proposed an alliance between England, Germany, and the United States which would in effect give Germany a free hand on the Continent, in return for which he had promised not to make Germany “a world power” or to attempt to compete with the British Navy.  The Times consistently opposed the Eastern Locarno and backed Hitler’s non-aggression alternative.  Two days before the Berlin talks, for instance, it advocated that they should include territorial changes, and in particular the question of Memel;  while on the day they began [March 1935] its leading article suggested that if Herr Hitler can persuade his British visitors, and through them the rest of the world.  that his enlarged army is really designed to give them equality of status and equality of negotiation with other countries, and is not to be trained for aggressive purposes, then Europe may be on the threshold of an era in which changes can be made without the use of force, and a potential aggressor may be deterred by the certain prospect of having to face overwhelming opposition ! How far The Times and Lothian were arguing and negotiating on the Government’s behalf is still not clear, but that Halifax was intimately acquainted with the trend of this argument is probable.

It goes without saying that the whole inner core of the Group, and their chief publications, such as The Times and The Round Table, approved the policy of appeasement completely and prodded it along with calculated indiscretions when it was felt necessary to do so.  After the remilitarization of the Rhineland, The Times cynically called this act “a chance to rebuild.”  As late as 24 February 1938, in the House of Lords, Lothian defended the same event.  He said:  “We hear a great deal of the violation by Herr Hitler of the Treaty because he returned his own troops to his own frontier.  You hear much less today of the violation by which the French Army, with the acquiescence of this country, crossed the frontier in order to annihilate German industry and in effect produced the present Nazi Party.”

In the House of Commons in October 1935, and again on 6 May 1936, Amery systematically attacked the use of force to sustain, the League of Nations.  On the earlier occasion he said :

From the very outset there have been two schools of thought about the League and about our obligations under the League.  There has been the school, to which I belong and to which for years, I believe, the Government of this country belonged, that regards the League as a great institution, an organization for promoting cooperation and harmony among the nations, for bringing about understanding, a permanent Round Table of the nations in conference ... provided always that it did not have at the background the threat of coercion.  There is another school which thinks that the actual Articles of the Covenant, concocted in the throes of the peace settlement and in that atmosphere of optimism which led us to expect ten million pounds or more in reparations from Germany, constitute a sacrosanct dispensation, that they have introduced a new world order, and would, if they were only loyally adhered to, abolish war for good and all.  The Covenant, I admit, as originally drafted, embodied both aspects and it was because the Covenant contained the Clauses that stood for coercion and for definite automatic obligations that the United States ... repudiated it.  From that moment the keystone was taken out of the whole arch of any League of coercion.... The League is now undergoing a trial which may well prove disastrous to it.  In this matter, as in other matters, it is the letter that killeth.  The letter of the Covenant is the one thing which is likely to kill the League of Nations.

Amery then continued with a brief resume of the efforts to make the League an instrument of coercion, especially the Geneva Protocol.  In regard to this, he continued:  “The case I wish to put to the House is that the stand taken by His Majesty’s Government then and the arguments they used were not arguments merely against the Protocol, but arguments against the whole conception of a League based on economic and military sanctions.”  He quoted Austen Chamberlain in 1925 and General Smuts in 1934 with approval, and concluded:  “I think that we should have got together with France and Italy and devised some scheme by which under a condominium or mandate certain if not all of the non-Amharic provinces of Abyssinia should be transferred to Italian rule.  The whole thing could have been done by agreement, and I have no doubt that such agreement would have been ratified at Geneva.”

This last statement was more then seven weeks before the Hoare-Laval Plan was made public, and six weeks after its outlines were laid down by Hoare, Eden, and Laval at a secret meeting in Paris (10 September 1935).

In his speech of 6 May 1936, Amery referred back to his October speech and demanded that the Covenant of the League be reformed to prevent sanctions in the future.  Once again he quoted Smuts’s speech of November 1934 with approval, and demanded “a League which is based not upon coercion but upon conciliation.”

Between Amery’s two speeches, on 5 February 1936, Sir Arthur Salter, of the Group and All Souls, offered his arguments to support appeasement.  He quoted Smuts’s speech of 1934 with approval and pointed out the great need for living space and raw materials for Japan, Italy, and Germany.  The only solution, he felt, was for Britain to yield to these needs.

I do not think it matters [he said] if you reintroduce conscription and quadruple or quintuple your Air Force.  That will not protect you.  I believe that the struggle is destined to come unless we are prepared to agree to a fairer distribution of the world’s land surface and of the raw materials which are needed by modern civilized nations.  But there is a way out;  there is no necessity for a clash.  I am sure that time presses and that we cannot postpone a settlement indefinitely.... I suggest that the way out is the application of those principles [of Christianity], the deliberate and conscious application of those principles to international affairs by this nation and by the world under the leadership of this nation.... Treat other nations as you would desire to be treated by them.

The liquidation of the countries between Germany and Russia could proceed as soon as the Rhineland was fortified, without fear on Germany’s part that France would be able to attack her in the west while she was occupied in the east.  The chief task of the Milner Group was to see that this devouring process was done no faster than public opinion in Britain could accept, and that the process did not result in any out burst of violence, which the British people would be unlikely to accept.  To this double purpose, the British government and the Milner Group made every effort to restrain the use of force by the Germans and to soften up the prospective victims so that they would not resist the process and thus precipitate a war.

The countries marked for liquidation included Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, but did not include Greece and Turkey, since the Group had no intention of allowing Germany to get down onto the Mediterranean “lifeline”.  Indeed, the purpose of the Hoare-Laval Plan of 1935, which wrecked the collective-security system by seeking to give most of Ethiopia to Italy, was intended to bring an appeased Italy into position alongside England, in order to block any movement of Germany southward rather than eastward.  The plan failed because Mussolini decided that he could get more out of England by threats from the side of Germany than from cooperation at the side of England.  As a result of this fiasco, the Milner Group lost another important member, Arnold J. Toynbee, who separated himself from the policy of appeasement in a fighting and courageous preface to The Survey of International Affairs for 1935 (published in 1936).  As a result of the public outcry in England, Hoare, the Foreign Secretary, was removed from office and briefly shelved in December 1935.  He returned to the Cabinet the following May.  Anthony Eden, who replaced him, was not a member of the Milner Group and considerably more to the public taste because of his reputation (largely undeserved) as an upholder of collective security.  The Milner Group was in no wise hampered in its policy of appeasement by the presence of Eden in the Foreign Office, and the government as a whole was considerably strengthened.  Whenever the Group wanted to do something which Eden’s delicate stomach could not swallow, the Foreign Secretary went off for a holiday, and Lord Halifax took over his tasks.  Halifax did this, for example, during the first two weeks of August 1936, when the nonintervention policy was established in Spain;  he did it again in February 1937, when the capable British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Eric Phipps, was removed at Ribbentrop’s demand and replaced by Sir Nevile Henderson;  he did it again at the end of October 1937, when arrangements were made for his visit to Hitler at Berchtesgaden in November;  and, finally, Halifax replaced Eden as Foreign Secretary permanently in February 1938, when Eden refused to accept the recognition of the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in return for an Italian promise to withdraw their forces from Spain.  In this last case, Halifax was already negotiating with Count Grandi in the Foreign Office before Eden’s resignation statement was made.  Eden and Halifax were second cousins, both being great-grandsons of Lord Grey of the Reform Bill of 1832, and Halifax’s daughter in 1936 married the half-brother of Mrs. Anthony Eden.  Halifax and Eden were combined in the Foreign Office in order that the former could counterbalance the “youthful impetuosities” of the latter, since these might jeopardize appeasement but were regarded as necessary stage-settings to satisfy the collective-security yearnings of public opinion in England.  These yearnings were made evident in the famous “Peace Ballot” of the League of Nations Union, a maneuver put through by Lord Cecil as a countermove to the Group’s slow-undermining of collective security.  This countermove, which was regarded with extreme distaste by Lothian and others of the inner circle, resulted, among other things, in an excessively polite crossing of swords by Cecil and Lothian in the House of Lords on 16 March 1938.

During the period in which Halifax acted as a brake on Eden, he held the sinecure Cabinet posts of Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council (1935-1938).  He had been added to the Cabinet, after his return from India in 1931, as President of the Board of Education, but devoted most of his time from 1931 to 1935 in helping Simon and Hoare put through the Government of India Act of 1935.  In October 1933, the same group of Conservative members of Convocation who had made Lord Milner Chancellor of Oxford University in 1925 selected Lord Irwin (Halifax), for the same position, in succession to the late Lord Grey of Fallodon.  He spent almost the whole month of June 1934 in the active functions of this position, especially in drawing up the list of recipients of honorary degrees.  This list is very significant.  Among sixteen recipients of the Doctorate of Civil Law, we find the following five names:  Samuel Hoare, Maurice Hankey, W.G.S. Adams, John Buchan, and Geoffrey Dawson.

We have indicated that Halifax’s influence on foreign policy was increasingly important in the years 1934-1937.  It was he who defended Hoare in the House of Lords in December 1935, saying:  “I have never been one of those ... who have thought that it was any part in this dispute of the League to try to stop a war in Africa by starting a war in Europe.  It was Halifax who went with Eden to Paris in March 1936 to the discussions of the Locarno Powers regarding the remilitarization of the Rhineland.  That his task at this meeting was to act as a brake on Eden’s relatively large respect for the sanctity of international obligations is admitted by Lord Halifax’s authorized biographer.  It was Halifax, as we have seen, who inaugurated the nonintervention policy in Spain in August 1936.  And it was Halifax who opened the third and last stage of appeasement in November 1937 by his visit to Hitler in Berchtesgaden.

It is probable that the groundwork for Halifax’s visit to Hitler had been laid by the earlier visits of Lords Lothian and Londonderry to the same host, but our knowledge of these earlier events is too scanty to be certain.  Of Halifax’s visit, the story is now clear, as a result of the publication of the German Foreign Office memorandum on the subject and Keith Feiling’s publication of some of the letters from Neville Chamberlain to his sister.  The visit was arranged by Halifax himself, early in November 1937, at a time when he was Acting Foreign Secretary, Eden being absent in Brussels at a meeting of signers of the Nine-Power Pacific Treaty of 1922.  As a result, Halifax had a long conversation with Hitler on 19 November 1937 in which, whatever may have been Halifax’s intention, Hitler’s government became convinced of three things:  (a) that Britain regarded Germany as the chief bulwark against communism in Europe;  (b) that Britain was prepared to join a Four Power agreement of France, Germany, Italy, and herself;  and (c) that Britain was prepared to allow Germany to liquidate Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland if this could be done without provoking a war into which the British Government, however unwillingly, would be dragged in opposition to Germany.  The German Foreign Ministry memorandum on this conversation makes it perfectly clear that the Germans did not misunderstand Halifax except, possibly, on the last point.  There they failed to see that if Germany made war, the British Government would be forced into the war against Germany by public opinion in England.  The German diplomatic agents in London, especially the Ambassador, Dirksen, saw this clearly, but the Government in Berlin listened only to the blind and conceited ignorance of Ribbentrop.  As dictators themselves, unfamiliar with the British social or constitutional systems, the German rulers assumed that the willingness of the British Government to accept the liquidation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland implied that the British Government would never go to war to prevent this liquidation.  They did not see that the British Government might have to declare war to stay in office if public opinion in Britain were sufficiently aroused.  The British Government saw this difficulty and as a last resort were prepared to declare war but not to wage war on Germany.  This distinction was not clear to the Germans and was not accepted by the inner core of the Milner Group.  It was, however, accepted by the other elements in the government, like Chamberlain himself, and by much of the second circle of the Milner Group, including Simon, Hoare, and probably Halifax.  It was this which resulted in the “phony war” from September 1939 to April 1940.

The memorandum on Halifax’s interview, quoting the Englishman in the third person, says in part:[10]

In spite of these difficulties [British public opinion, the English Church, and the Labour Party] he and other members of the British Government were fully aware that the Führer had not only achieved a great deal inside Germany herself, but that, by destroying Communism in his country, he had barred its road to Western Europe, and that Germany therefore could rightly be regarded as a bulwark of the West against Bolshevism. ... After the ground had been prepared by an Anglo-German understanding, the four Great West-European Powers must jointly lay the foundation for lasting peace in Europe.  Under no conditions should any of the four Powers remain outside this cooperation, or else there would be no end to the present unstable situation.... Britons were realists and were perhaps more than others convinced that the errors of the Versailles dictate must be rectified.  Britain always exercised her influence in this realistic sense in the past.  He pointed to Britain’s role with regard to the evacuation of the Rhineland ahead of the fixed time, the settlement of the reparations problem, and the reoccupation of the Rhineland. ... He therefore wanted to know the Führer’s attitude toward the League of Nations, as well as toward disarmament.  All other questions could be characterized as relating to changes in the European order, changes that sooner or later would probably take place.  To these questions belonged Danzig, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.  England was only interested that any alterations should be effected by peaceful evolution, so as to avoid methods which might cause far-reaching disturbances, which were not desired either by the Führer or by other countries.... Only one country, Soviet Russia, stood to gain from a general conflict.  All others were at heart in favour of the consolidation of peace.

That this attitude was not Halifax’s personal argument but the point of view of the government (and of the Milner Group) is perfectly clear.  On arrival, Halifax assured the Germans that the purposes of his visit had been discussed and accepted by the Foreign Secretary (Eden) and the Prime Minister.  On 26 November 1937, one week after Halifax’s conversation with Hitler, Chamberlain wrote to his sister that lie hoped to satisfy German colonial demands by giving them the Belgian Congo and Angola in place of Tanganyika.  He then added:  “I don’t see why we shouldn’t say to Germany, ‘Give us satisfactory assurances that you won’t use force to deal with the Austrians and Czechoslovakians, and we will give you similar assurances that we won’t use force to prevent the changes you want if you can get them by peaceful means.' ”[11]

It might be noted that when John W. Wheeler-Bennett, of Chatham House and the Milner Group, wrote his book on Munich:  Prologue to Tragedy, published in 1948, he relegated the last quotation to a footnote and suppressed the references to the Belgian Congo and Angola.  This, however, was an essential part of the appeasement program of the Chamberlain group.  On 3 March 1938, the British Ambassador in Berlin, Nevile Henderson, one of the Chamberlain group, tried to persuade Hitler to begin negotiations to carry out this plan but did not succeed.  He repeated Lord Halifax’s statement that changes in Europe were acceptable to Britain if accomplished without “the free play of forces,” and stated that he personally “had often expressed himself in favour of the Anschluss.”  In the colonial field, he tried to interest Hitler in an area in Africa between the 5th parallel and the Zambezi River, but the Fuhrer insisted that his interest was restricted to restoration of Germany’s 1914 colonies in Africa.

At the famous interview between Hitler and Schuschnigg in February 1938, Hitler told the Austrian that Lord Halifax agreed “with everything he [Hitler] did with respect to Austria and the Sudeten Germans.”  This was reported in a “rush and strictly confidential” message of 16 February 1938 from the American Consul General in Vienna to Secretary of State Hull, a document released to the American press on 18 December 1948.  Chamberlain and others made it perfectly clear, both in public and in private, that Britain would not act to prevent German occupation of Austria or Czechoslovakia.  On 21 February 1938, during the Austrian crisis, John Simon said in the House of Commons, “Great Britain has never given special guarantees regarding Austrian independence.”  Six days later, Chamberlain said:  “We must not try to delude small nations into thinking that they will be protected by the League against aggression and acting accordingly when we know that nothing of the kind can be expected.”  Five days after the seizure of Austria on 12 March 1938, the Soviet Union sent Britain a proposal for an international conference to stop aggression.  The suggestion was rejected at once, and, on 20 March 1938, Chamberlain wrote to his sister:  “I have therefore abandoned any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia or to the French in connection with her obligation to that country.”

When Daladier, the French Premier, came to London at the end of April 1938 to seek support for Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain refused and apparently, if we can believe Felling, put pressure on the French to compel the Czechoslovaks to make an agreement with Hitler.  On 1 May, Chamberlain wrote to his sister in this connection:  “Fortunately the papers have had no hint of how near we came to a break over Czechoslovakia.”

In a long report of 10 July 1938, Ambassador Dirksen wrote to Ribbentrop as follows:

In England the Chamberlain-Halifax Cabinet is at the helm and the first and most essential plank of its platform was and is agreement with the totalitarian States.... This government displays with regard to Germany the maximum understanding that could be displayed by any of the likely combinations of British politicians.  It possesses the inner-political strength to carry out this task.  It has come nearer to understanding the most essential points of the major demands advanced by Germany, with respect to excluding the Soviet Union from the decision of the destinies of Europe, the League of Nations likewise, and the advisability of bilateral negotiations and treaties.  It is displaying increasing understanding of Germany’s demands in the Sudeten German question.  It would be prepared to make great sacrifices to meet Germany’s other just demands—on the one condition that it is endeavoured to achieve these ends by peaceful means.  If Germany should resort to military means to achieve these ends, England would without the slightest doubt go to war on the side of France.

This point of view was quite acceptable to the Milner Group.  In the leading article for December 1937, The Round Table examined the German question at some length.  In regard to the colonial problem, it contrasted two points of view, giving greater emphasis to “those who now feel that it was a mistake to have deprived Germany of all her colonies in 1918, and that Great Britain should contribute her share towards finding a colonial area—say, in central west Africa—which could be transferred to Germany under mandate.  But they, too, make it a condition that colonial revision should be part of a final all-round settlement with Germany, and that the colonies should not be used as leverage for fresh demands or as strategic bases.”  Later it said:  “A majority would regard the abandonment of France’s eastern alliances as a price well worth paying for lasting peace and the return of Germany to the League.”  It welcomed German rearmament, since this would force revision of the evil Treaty of Versailles.  In this connection, the same article said:  “The pressure of rearmament and the events of the last few years have at least had this effect, that the refusal of those who have benefited most by the peace settlement to consider any kind of change is rapidly disappearing;  for forcible changes which they have been unable to prevent have already taken place, and further changes will certainly follow, especially in eastern Europe, unless they are prepared to fight a very formidable war to prevent them.”  The article rejected such a war on the grounds that its “outcome is uncertain” and it “would entail objectionable domestic disasters.”  In adding up the balance of military forces in such a war, the article significantly omitted all mention of Czechoslovakia, whose forces at that time were considerably stronger than Germany’s.  It placed the French Army at two-thirds the size of Germany’s (which was untrue) and Britain at no more than two or three divisions.  The point of view of The Round Table was not identical with that of the Chamberlain group (which intersected, through common members, with the second circle of the Milner Group).  The Round Table, speaking for the inner circle of the Milner Group, was not nearly so anti-Russian as the Chamberlain group.  Accordingly, it never regarded a collision between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as a practical solution of Europe’s problems.  It did accept the idea of a four-power pact to exclude Russia from Europe, but it was not willing to allow Germany to expand eastward as she wished.  The Milner Group’s misunderstanding of the Nazi system and of Germany itself was so great that they envisioned a stable situation in which Europe was dominated by a four-power pact, with Soviet Russia on one side and an Oceanic bloc of the British Commonwealth and the United States on the other.  The Group insisted on rapid British rearmament and the building up of the Oceanic System because they had a lower opinion of Britain’s own powers than did the Chamberlain group (this idea was derived from Milner) and they were not prepared to allow Germany to go eastward indefinitely in the hope she would be satisfied by a war with Russia.  As we shall see, the policies of the Milner Group and the Chamberlain group went jointly forward, with slight shifts of emphasis, until March 1939, when the Group began to disintegrate.

In the same article of December 1937 The Round Table said that the democracies must

make clear the point at which they are prepared to risk war rather than retreat.... During the last year or two The Round Table has criticized the popular dogma of “collective security” on two main grounds:  that it meant fighting to maintain an out-of-date settlement, and that security depended, not merely on public opinion but on ability to bring effective military superiority to bear at the critical point.  On the other hand, The Round Table is resolutely in favour of adequate defensive armaments and of a vigorous and if necessary defiant foreign policy at those points where we are sure that ... we can bring superior power effectively to bear.  And for this purpose we consider that the nations of the Commonwealth should not only act together themselves, but should also work in the closest cooperation with all the democracies, especially the United States.

In February 1938, Lord Lothian, “leader” of the Group, spoke in the House of Lords in support of appeasement.  This extraordinary speech was delivered in defense of the retiring of Sir Robert Vansittart.  Sir Robert, as Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign Office from 1930 to 1938, was a constant thorn in the side of the appeasers.  The opening of the third stage of appeasement at the end of 1937 made it necessary to get rid of him and his objections to their policy.  Accordingly, he was “promoted” to the newly created post of Chief Diplomatic Adviser, and the Under Secretaryship was given to Sir Alexander Cadogan of the Cecil Bloc.  This action led to a debate in February 1938.  Lord Lothian intervened to insist that Sir Robert’s new role would not be parallel to that of the new Under Secretary but was restricted to advising only on “matters specifically referred to him by the Secretary of State, and he is no longer responsible for the day to day work of the Office.”  From this point, Lothian launched into a long attack on the League of Nations, followed by a defense of Germany.  In regard to the former, he expressed satisfaction that

the most dangerous aspect of the League of Nations—namely, the interpretation which has habitually been put upon it by the League of Nations Union in this country—is pretty well dead.... It seems to me that that [interpretation] is inevitably going to turn the League of Nations itself not into an instrument for maintaining peace but into an instrument for making war.  That was not the original concept of the League at all.  The original concept of the League definitely left the way open for alteration after six months’ examination even if it meant war.... I think the League of Nations now, at last, is going to have a chance of recovery, for the reason that this particular interpretation, which has been its besetting sin, the one thing which has led to its failure from the beginning, is now dead. ... Therefore I am more hopeful of the League today than I have been for a good long time, because it has ceased to be an instrument to try to perpetuate the status quo.

When Lothian turned to the problem of Germany, his arguments became even more ridiculous.  “The fundamental problem of the world today is still the problem of Germany.... Why is Germany the issue ?  In my view the fundamental reason is that at no time in the years after 1919 has the rest of the world been willing to concede any substantial justice or reasonable understanding to Germany, either when she was a Republic or since she has become a Totalitarian State.”  There followed a long attack on the war guilt thesis as applied to 1914, or even to 1870.  This thesis Lothian called “propaganda,” and from this false propaganda he traced all the cruel treatment given Germany since 1919.  He disapproved of the Nazi Government’s methods inside Germany, but added:  “I do not think there is any doubt that modern Germany is the result of the policy of the United States, whom I cannot absolve from responsibility, of ourselves, and of France;  and in this matter the responsibility of the United States and ourselves is more than that of France for defaulting on the obligation to give France some security so that she could allow Germany to recover.”

It seems impossible that this could be the same man who was calling for the extirpation of “Prussianism” in 1908-1918 and who was to call for the same crusade as Ambassador in Washington in 1940.

In this same speech Lothian laid down what might be called the Milner Group solution to this German problem, 1938 model:

There is only one solution to this problem.  You have got to combine collective justice with collective security.  You have got to give remedies to those nations which are entitled to them.... You have got to be willing to concede to them-and one of them is Germany-alterations in the status quo and you have also got to incur obligations with other like-minded nations to resist changes which go beyond what impartial justice regards as fair.... When we are willing to admit that we are ourselves largely responsible for the tragedy that confronts us, for the fact that Germanv is the center of the world problem, and are willing to concede to Germany what a fair-minded and impartial authority would say was a fair solution of her problem, and if, in addition to that, we are willing to say, “We will meet aggression to secure more than this with the only means in which it can be met,” then I consider there is hope for the world.

The fallacy in all of this rests on the fact that every concession to Germany made her stronger, with no guarantee that she ever would stop;  and if, after years of concessions, she refused to stop, she might be too strong to be compelled to do so.  The Milner Group thesis was based not only on ignorance but also on logical deficiencies.  The program of the Chamberlain group was at least more consistent, since it involved no effort to stop Germany at any point but aimed to solve the German problem by driving it into Russia.  Such an “immoral” solution could not be acceptable to the Milner Group, so they should have had sense enough to stop Germany while she was weak.

Shortly after this speech, on 24 February 1938, Lothian intervened in the debate on Eden’s resignation to reject Eden’s point of view and defend Chamberlain’s.  He rejected the idea that Britain should commit herself to support Czechoslovakia against Germany and criticized the President of Czechoslovakia for his failure to make concessions to Republican Germany.  He then repeated his speech of the week before, the chief addition being a defense of the German remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936.

Four days after the seizure of Austria, Lothian again advised against any new pledges to anyone and demanded rearmament and national service.  In regard to rearmament he said:  “Unpreparedness and the belief that you are unwilling to accept that challenge or that you do not mean what you say, does contribute to war.  That will remain to be a condition of the world until the nations are willing in some way to pool their sovereignty in a common federation.”  All of these ideas of Lothian’s were explictly restated by him in a speech at Chatham House on 24 March 1938.  He refuted the “war-guilt thesis,” condemned the Versailles settlement as “a very stiff Peace Treaty,” insisted on revision, blamed all the disasters of Europe on America’s withdrawal from the League in 1920, called the Hitler government a temporary “unnatural pathological state” solely caused by the stiff treaty and the failure to revise it, defended the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the seizure of Austria, condemned Czechoslovakia as “almost the only racially heterogeneous State left in Europe,” praised “nonintervention” in Spain, praised Chamberlain’s statement of the same day refusing to promise support to Czechoslovakia, and demanded “national service” as insurance that Hitler would not continue to use force after he obtained what he deserved in justice.

These arguments of Lothian’s were all supported by the Group in other ways.  The Round Table in its leading articles of March 1938, September 1938, and March 1939 demanded “national service.”  In the leading article of June 1938 it repeated all Lothian’s arguments in somewhat different words.  These arguments could be summed up in the slogan “appeasement and rearmament.”  Then it added:

Until the nations can be brought to the two principles of collective security already described, the best security for peace is that the world should be divided into zones within each of which one of the great armed Powers, or a group of them, is clearly preponderant, and in which therefore other Powers do not seek to interfere.  Then there may be peace for a time.  The peace of the 19th century rested on the fact that the supremacy of the British Navy kept the whole oceanic area free from general war. ... The vital question now arises whether in that same zone, to which France and Scandinavia must be added, it is not possible, despite the immense armaments of central Europe, Russia, and the Far East, for the democracies to create security, stability, and peace in which liberal institutions can survive.  The oceanic zone in fact constitutes the one part of the world in which it is possible today to realise the ideals of the League of Nations.

From this point onward (early 1938), the Milner Group increasingly emphasized the necessity for building up this Oceanic bloc.  In England the basic propaganda work was done through The Round Table and Lionel Curtis, while in the United States it was done through the Rhodes Scholarship organization, especially through Clarence Streit and Frank Aydelotte.  In England, Curtis wrote a series of books and articles advocating a new federal organization built around the English-speaking countries.  The chief work of this nature was his Civitas Dei, which appeared in three volumes in 1934-1937.  A one-volume edition was issued in 1938, with the title The Commonwealth of God.  The first two volumes of this work are nothing more than a rehash and expansion of the older work The Commonwealth of Nations (1916).  By a superficial and frequently erroneous rewriting of world history, the author sought to review the evolution of the “commonwealth” idea and to show that all of history leads to its fulfillment and achievement in federation.  Ultimately, this federation will be worldwide, but en route it must pass through stages, of which the chief is federation of the English-speaking peoples.  Writing early in 1937, he advocated that the League of Nations be destroyed by the mass resignation of the British democracies.  These should then take the initiative in forming a new league, also at Geneva, which would have no power to enforce anything but would merely form a kind of international conference.  Since it would be foolish to expect any federation to evolve from any such organization as this, a parallel, but quite separate, effort should be made to create an international commonwealth, based on the example of the United States in 1788.  This international commonwealth would differ from the League of Nations in that its members would yield up part of their sovereignty, and the central organization would function directly on individuals and not merely on states.  This international commonwealth would be formed, at first, only of those states that have evolved furthest in the direction of obtaining a commonwealth form of government for themselves.  It will be recalled that this restriction on membership was what Curtis had originally advocated for the League of Nations in The Round Table of December 1918.  According to Curtis, the movement toward the Commonwealth of God can begin by the union of any two national commonwealths, no matter how small.  He suggested New Zealand and Australia, or these two and Great Britain.  Then the international commonwealth could be expanded to include India, Egypt, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia, France, Canada, the United States, and Ireland.  That the chief obstacle to this union was to be found in men’s minds was perfectly clear to Curtis.  To overcome this obstacle, he put his faith in propaganda, and the chief instruments of that propaganda, he said, must be the churches and the universities.  He said nothing about the Milner Group, but, considering Curtis’s position in this Group and that Lothian and others agreed with him, it is not surprising that the chief source of this propaganda is to be found in those agencies controlled by the Group.[12]

In the United States, the chief source of this propaganda was the organization known as Union Now, which was an offshoot of the Rhodes Scholarship network.  The publicized originator of the idea was Clarence Streit, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in 1920 and League of Nations correspondent of The New York Times in 1929-1938.  Mr. Streit’s plan, which was very similar to Curtis’s, except that it included fifteen countries to begin with, was first made public at a series of three lectures at Swarthmore College in February 1939.  Almost simultaneously his book, Union Now, was launched and received wide publicity.  Before we look at that, we might mention that at the time the president of Swarthmore College was Frank Aydelotte, the most important member of the Milner Group in the United States since the death of George Louis Beer.  Dr. Aydelotte was one of the original Rhodes Scholars, attending Brasenose in 1905-1907.  He was president of Swarthmore from 1921 to 1940;  has been American secretary to the Rhodes Trustees since 1918;  has been president of the Association of American Rhodes Scholars since 1930;  has been a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation since 1922;  and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations for many years.  In 1937, along with three other members of the Milner Group, he received from Oxford (and Lord Halifax) the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law.  The other three recipients who were members of the Group were Brand, Ormsby-Gore, and Sir Herbert Baker, the famous architect.

As soon as Streit’s book was published, it was hailed by Lord Lothian in an interview with the press.  Shortly afterwards, Lothian gave it a favorable review in the Christian Science Monitor of 6 May 1939.  The book was distributed to educational institutions in various places by the Carnegie Foundation and was greeted in the June 1939 issue of The Round Table as “the only way.”  This article said:  “There is, indeed, no other cure.  ... In The Commonwealth of God Mr. Lionel Curtis showed how history and religion pointed down the same path.  It is one of the great merits of Mr. Streit’s book that he translates the general theme into a concrete plan, which he presents, not for the indefinite hereafter, but for our own generation, now.”  In the September 1939 issue, in an article headed “Union:  Oceanic or Continental,” The Round Table contrasted Streit’s plan with that for European union offered by Count Coudenhove-Kalergi and gave the arguments for both.

While all this was going on, the remorseless wheels of appeasement were grinding out of existence one country after another.  The fatal loss was Czechoslovakia.  This disaster was engineered by Chamberlain with the full co-operation of the Milner Group.  The details do not concern us here, but it should be mentioned that the dispute arose over the position of the Sudeten Germans within the Czechoslovak state, and as late as 15 September 1938 was still being expressed in those terms.  Up to that day, Hitler had made no demand to annex the Sudeten area, although on 12 September he had for the first time asked for “self-determination” for the Sudetens.  Konrad Henlein, Hitler’s agent in Czechoslovakia and leader of the Sudeten Germans, expressed no desire “to go back to the Reich” until after 12 September.  Who, then, first demanded frontier rectification in favor of Germany ?  Chamberlain did so privately on 10 May 1938, and the Milner Group did so publicly on 7 September 1938.  The Chamberlain suggestion was made by one of those “calculated indiscretions” of which he was so fond, at an “off-the-record” meeting with certain Canadian and American newspaper reporters at a luncheon arranged by Lady Astor and held at her London house.  On this occasion Chamberlain spoke of his plans for a four-power pact to exclude Russia from Europe and the possibility of frontier revisions in favor of Germany to settle the Sudeten issue.  When the news leaked out, as it was bound to do, Chamberlain was questioned in Commons by Geoffrey Mander on 20 June but refused to answer, calling his questioner a troublemaker.  This answer was criticized by Sir Archibald Sinclair the following day, but he received no better treatment.  Lady Astor, however, interjected, “I would like to say that there is not a word of truth in it.”  By 27 June, however, she had a change of heart and stated:  “I never had any intention of denying that the Prime Minister had attended a luncheon at my house.  The Prime Minister did so attend, the object being to enable some American journalists who had not previously met him to do so privately and informally, and thus to make his acquaintance.”

The second suggestion for revision of frontiers also had an Astor flavor, since it appeared as a leading article in The Times on 7 September 1938.  The outraged cries of protest from all sides which greeted this suggestion made it clear that further softening up of the British public was urgently necessary before it would be safe to hand over Czechoslovakia to Hitler.  This was done in the war-scare of September 15-28 in London.  That this war-scare was fraudulent and that Lord Halifax was deeply involved in its creation is now clear.  All the evidence cannot be given here.  There is no evidence whatever that the Chamberlain government intended to fight over Czechoslovakia unless this was the only alternative to falling from office.  Even at the height of the crisis, when all ways out without war seemed closed (27 September), Chamberlain showed what he thought of the case by telling the British people over the BBC that the issue was “a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

To frighten the British people, the British government circulated stories about the strength of the German Army and Air Force which were greatly exaggerated;  they implied that Germany would use poison gas at once and from the air, although this was quite untrue;  they distributed gas masks and madly built trenches in London parks, although the former were needless and the latter worthless.  On 23 September, the British advised the Czechoslovakian government to mobilize, although they had previously forbidden it.  This was done to increase the crisis in London, and the fact that Göring’s air force allowed it to go through without attack indicates his belief that Germany did not need to fight.  In fact, Göring told the French Ambassador on 12 September that he had positive assurance that Britain would not fight.  As early as 1 September 1938, Sir Horace Wilson, Chamberlain’s alter ego, told the German charge d’affaires in London, Theodor Kordt, “If we two, Great Britain and Germany, come to agreement regarding the settlement of the Czech problem, we shall simply brush aside the resistance that France or Czechoslovakia herself may offer to the decision.”

The fraudulent nature of the Munich crisis appears throughout its history.  We might mention the following:  (1) the suspicious fashion in which the Runciman Mission was sent to Czechoslovakia, immediately after Hitler’s aide, Captain Wiedemann, visited Halifax at the latter’s home (not the Foreign Office) on 18 July 1938, and with the statement, which was untrue, that it was being sent at the desire of the Czechoslovaks;  13 (2) the fact that Runciman in Czechoslovakia spent most of his time with the Sudetens and put pressure on the government to make one concession after another to Henlein, when it was perfectly clear that Henlein did not want a settlement;  (3) the fact that Runciman wrote to Hitler on 2 September that he would have a plan for a settlement by 15 September;  (4) the fact that this Runciman plan was practically the same as the Munich settlement finally adopted;  (5) the fact that Chamberlain made the war-scare over the Godesberg proposals and, after making a settlement at Munich, made no effort to enforce those provisions by which Munich differed from Godesberg, but on the contrary allowed the Germans to take what they wished in Czechoslovakia as they wished;  (6) the fact that the government did all it could to exclude Russia from the settlement, although Russia was allied to both Czechoslovakia and France;  (7) the fact that the government and the French government tried to spread the belief that Russia would not honor these commitments, although all the evidence indicated that she would;  (8) the fact that Chamberlain had a tete-a-tete conference with Hitler at Berchtesgaden on 15 September, which lasted for three hours, and at which only Hitler’s private interpreter was present as a third party, and that this was repeated at Godesberg on 23 September;  (9) the fact that the Czechoslovaks were forced to yield to Chamberlain’s settlement under pressure of ultimatums from both France and Britain, a fact that was concealed from the British people by omitting a crucial document from the White Paper of 28 September 1938 (Cmd. 5847).

Two additional points, concerned with the degree of German armaments and the position of the anti-Hitler resistance within Germany, require further elucidation.  For years before June 1938, the government had insisted that British rearming was progressing in a satisfactory fashion.  Churchill and others had questioned this and had produced figures on German rearmament to prove that Britain’s own progress in this field was inadequate.  These figures were denied by the government, and their own accomplishments were defended.  In 1937 and in 1938, Churchill had clashed with Baldwin and Chamberlain on this issue.  As late as March 1938, Chamberlain said that British armaments were such as to make her an “almost terrifying power ... on the opinion of the world.”  But as the year went on, the government adopted a quite different attitude.  In order to persuade public opinion that it was necessary to yield to Germany, the Government pretended that its armaments were quite inadequate in comparison with Germany.”  We now know, thanks to the captured papers of the German Ministry of War, that this was a gross exaggeration.  These papers were studied by Major General C.F. Robinson of the United States Army, and analyzed in a report which he submitted to the Secretary of War in October 1947.  This document, entitled Foreign Logistical Organizations and Methods, shows that all of the accepted estimates of German rearmament in the period 1933-1939 were gross exaggerations.  From 1936 to the outbreak of war, German aircraft production was not raised, but averaged 425 planes a month.  Her tank production was low and even in 1939 was less than Britain’s.  In the first 9 months of 1939, Germany produced only 50 tanks a month;  in the last 4 months of 1939, in wartime, Germany produced 247 “tanks and self-propelled guns,” compared to a British production of 314 tanks in the same period.  At the time of the Munich crisis, Germany had 35 infantry and 4 motorized divisions, none of them fully manned or equipped.  This was no more than Czechoslovakia had alone.  Moreover, the Czech Army was better trained, had far better equipment, and had better morale and better fortifications.  As an example of this point, we might mention that the Czech tank was of 38 tons, while the Germans, before 1938, had no tank over 10 tons.  During 1938 they brought into production the Mark III tank of less than 20 tons, and in 1939 brought into production the Mark IV of 23 tons.  Up to September 1939, the German Army had obtained only 300 tanks of the Mark III and Mark IV types together.  Most of these were delivered during 1939.  In comparison, the Germans captured in Czechoslovakia, in March 1939, 469 of the superior Czech tanks.  At the same time they captured 1500 planes (of which 500 were first-line), 43,000 machineguns, and over 1 million rifles.  These figures are comparable with what Germany had at Munich, and at that time, if the British government had desired, Germany would have been facing France, Britain, and Russia, as well as Czechoslovakia.

It should perhaps be mentioned that up to September 1939 the German Navy had acquired only 53 submarines during the Hitler regime.  No economic mobilization for war had been made and no reserve stocks built up.  When the war began, in September 1939, Germany had ammunition for 6 weeks, and the air force had bombs for 3 months at the rate of expenditure experienced during the Polish campaign.  At that time the Air Force consisted of 1000 bombers and 1050 fighters.  In contrast, the British air program of May 1938 planned to provide Britain with a first-line force of 2370 planes;  this program was stepped up in 1939.  Under it, Britain produced almost 3000 military planes in 1938 and about 8000 in 1939.  The German figures for planes produced in these 2 years are 5235 and 8295, but these are figures for all planes produced in the country, including civil as well as military airplanes.  As Hanson Baldwin put it, “Up until 1940, at least, Germany’s production did not markedly outstrip Britain’s.”  It might also be mentioned that British combat planes were of better quality.

We have no way of knowing if the Chamberlain government knew these facts.  It should have known them.  At the least, it should not have deluged its own people with untrue stories about German arms.  Surprisingly, the British have generally refused to modify these stories, and, in order to perpetuate the fable about the necessity for the Munich surrender, they have continued to repeat the untrue propaganda stories of 1937-1939 regarding German armaments.  This is as true of the critics of Munich as of its defenders.  Both have adopted the version that Britain yielded to superior and overwhelming force at Munich.  They have done this even though this story is untrue and they are in a position to know that it is untrue.  For example, Winston Churchill, in his war memoirs, repeats the old stories about German rearmament, although he has been writing two years or more after the Reichswehr archives were captured.  For this he was criticized by Hanson Baldwin in The New York Times of 9 May 1948.  In his recent book, Munich : Prologue to Tragedy, J.W. Wheeler-Bennett, the British editor of the captured papers of the German Foreign Ministry, accepts the old propaganda tales of German rearmament as axiomatic, and accordingly does not even discuss the subject.  He merely tells his readers:  “By the close of 1937 Germany’s preparedness for war was complete.  The preference for guns rather than for butter had brought forth results.  Her rearmament had reached its apogee and could hold that peak level for a certain time.  Her economy was geared to a strict regime of rationing and output on a war level.”  None of this was true, and Mr. Wheeler-Bennett should have examined the evidence.  If he had, he would not have been so severe on what he calls Professor Frederick Schumann’s “fantastic theory of the 'Pre-Munich Plot.’ ”[14]

The last piece of evidence which we might mention to support the theory—not of a plot, perhaps, but that the Munich surrender was unnecessary and took place because Chamberlain and his associates wanted to dismember Czechoslovakia—is even more incriminating.  As a result of the inadequate rearmament of Germany, a group of conservatives within the regime formed a plot to liquidate Hitler and his close supporters if it appeared that his policy in Czechoslovakia would result in war.  This group, chiefly army officers, included men on the highest level of government.  In the group were Colonel General Ludwig Beck (Chief of the General Staff), Field Marshal von Witzleben, General Georg Thomas, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (Mayor of Leipzig in 1930-1936), Ulrich von Hassell (ex-Ambassador to Italy), Johannes Popitz (Prussian Minister of Finance), and Paul Schmidt (Hitler’s private interpreter).  This group formed a plot to kill Hitler and remove the Nazis from power.  The date was set eventually for 28 September 1938.  Lord Halifax, on 5 September 1938, was informed of the plot by Theodore Kordt, the German charge d’affaires in London, whose brother, Erich Kordt, chief of Ribbentrop’s office in the Foreign Ministry, was one of the conspirators.  The message which Kordt gave to Halifax begged the British government to stand fast with Czechoslovakia in the Sudeten crisis and to make perfectly clear that Britain would go to war if Germany violated Czechoslovakian territory.  The plot was canceled at noon on 28 September, when the news reached Berlin that Chamberlain was going to Munich.  It was this plot which eventually, after many false starts, reached fruition in the attempt to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944.

There can be little doubt that the Milner Group knew of these anti-Nazi plots within Germany.  Several of the plotters were former Rhodes Scholars and were in touch with members of the inner circle of the Milner Group in the period up to 1943, if not later.  One of the leaders of the anti-Hitler plotters in Germany, Helmuth von Moltke, was probably a member of the Milner Group as well as intellectual leader of the conspirators in Germany.  Count von Moltke was the son of the German commander of 1914 and grandnephew of the German commander of 1870.  His mother, Dorothy Rose-Innes, was the daughter of Sir James Rose-Innes, whom Milner made Chief Justice of the Transvaal in 1902.  Sir James was a supporter of Rhodes and had been Attorney General in Rhodes’s ministry in 1890.  He was Chief Justice of South Africa in 1914-1927 and was always close to the Milner Group.  The von Moltkes were Christian Scientists, and Dorothy, as Countess von Moltke after 1905, was one of the persons who translated Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health into German.  The younger Helmuth, son of Dorothy, and Count von Moltke after his father’s death in 1938, was openly anti-Nazi and came to England in 1934 to join the English bar.  He visited Lionel Curtis, at his mother’s suggestion, and “was made a member of the family, rooms in Duke of York Street being put at his disposal, and Kidlington and All Souls thrown open to him at week-ends;  the opportunities of contact which these brought with them were exploited to the full.... He was often in England until the summer of 1939, and in 1937 visited South Africa and the grandparents there to whom he was deeply attached.”  This quotation, from The Round Table for June 1946, makes perfectly clear to those who can read between the lines that Moltke became a member of the Milner Group.  It might be added that Curtis also visited the Rose-Innes family in South Africa while Helmuth was there in 1937.

Von Moltke kept in close contact with both Curtis and Lothian even after the war began in 1939.  He was made adviser on international law to the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces (OKW) in 1939 and retained this position until his arrest in 1944.  The intellectual leader of the German Underground, he was the inspiration and addressee of Dorothy Thompson’s book Listen, Hans.  He was the center of a group of plotters called the “Kreisau Circle,” named after his estate in Silesia.  After his execution by the Nazis in January 1945, his connection with the Milner Group was revealed, to those able to interpret the evidence, in the June 1946 issue of The Round Table.  This article extolled Moltke and reprinted a number of his letters.  The same article, with an additional letter, was published as a pamphlet in Johannesburg in 1947.[15]

Another plotter who appears to be close to the Milner Group was Adam von Trott zu Solz, a Rhodes Scholar who went to the Far East on a mission for the Rhodes Trust in 1936 and was in frequent contact with the Institute of Pacific Relations in the period 1936-1939.  He seems to have attended a meeting of the Pacific Council in New York late in 1939, coming from Germany, by way of Gibraltar, after the war began.  He remained in contact with the democratic countries until arrested and executed by the Nazis in 1944.  It is not without significance that one of the chief projects which the plotters hoped to further in post-Hitler German foreign policy was a “federation of Europe in a commonwealth not unlike the British Empire.”[16]

All of this evidence and much more would seem to support the theory of a “Munich plot”—that is, the theory that the British government had no intention or desire to save Czechoslovakia in 1938 and was willing or even eager to see it partitioned by Hitler, and only staged the war scare of September in order to make the British people accept this abuse of honor and sacrifice of Britain’s international position.  The efforts which the British government made after Munich to conceal the facts of that affair would support this interpretation.  The chief question, from our point of view, lies in the degree to which the Milner Group were involved in this “plot.”  There can be no doubt that the Chamberlain group was the chief factor in the scheme.  There is also no doubt that various members of the Milner Group second circle, who were close to the Chamberlain group, were involved.  The position of the inner core of the Milner Group is not conclusively established, but there is no evidence that they were not involved and a certain amount of evidence that they were involved.

Among this latter evidence is the fact that the inner core of the Group did not object to or protest against the partition of Czechoslovakia, although they did use the methods by which Hitler had obtained his goal as an argument in support of their pet plan for national service.  They prepared the ground for the Munich surrender both in The Times and in The Round Table.  In the June 1938 issue of the latter, we read:  “Czechoslovakia is apparently the danger spot of the next few months.  It will require high statesmanship on all sides to find a peaceful and stable solution of the minorities problem.  The critical question for the next six months is whether the four great Powers represented by the Franco-British entente and the Rome-Berlin axis can make up their minds that they will not go to war with one another and that they must settle outstanding problems by agreement together.”  In this statement, three implications are of almost equal importance.  These are the time limit of “six months,” the exclusion of both Czechoslovakia and Russia from the “agreement,” and the approval of the four-power pact.

In the September 1938 issue of The Round Table, published on the eve of Munich, we are told:  “It is one thing to be able, in the end, to win a war.  It is a far better thing to be able to prevent a war by a readiness for just dealing combined with resolute strength when injustice is threatened.”  Here, as always before 1939, The Round Table by “justice” meant appeasement of Germany.

After the dreadful deed was done, The Round Table had not a word of regret and hardly a kind word for the great sacrifice of the Czechs or for the magnificent demonstration of restraint which they had given the world.  In fact, the leading article in the December 1938 issue of The Round Table began with a severe criticism of Czechoslovakia for failure to reconcile her minorities, for failure to achieve economic co-operation with her neighbors, and for failure to welcome a Hapsburg restoration.  From that point on, the article was honest.  While accepting Munich, it regarded it solely as a surrender to German power and rejected the arguments that it was done by negotiation, that it was a question of self-determination or minority rights, or that Munich was any better or more lenient than the Godesberg demands.  The following article in the same issue, also on Czechoslovakia, is a tissue of untruths except for the statement that there never was any real Sudeten issue, since the whole thing was a fraudulent creation engineered from Germany.  Otherwise the article declares categorically:  (1) that Czechoslovakia could not have stood up against Hitler more than two or three weeks;  (2) that no opposition of importance to Hitler existed in Germany (“A good deal has been written about the opposition of the military commanders.  But in fact it does not and never did exist.”);  (3) “There is no such thing as a conservative opposition in Germany.”  In the middle of such statements as these, one ray of sanity shines like a light:  in a single sentence, The Round Table tossed onto the scrap heap its basic argument in support of appeasement, namely the “injustices of Versailles.”  The sentence reads:  “It is not Versailles but defeat that is the essential German grievance against the western Powers.”  This sentence should have been printed in gold letters in the Foreign Office in London in 1919 and read daily thereafter.

It is worthy of note that this issue of The Round Table discussed the Czech crisis in two articles of twenty-seven pages and had only one sentence on Russia.  This sentence spoke of the weakness of Russia, where “a new Tiberius had destroyed the morale and the material efficiency of the Russian Army.”  However, in a separate article, dealing largely with Soviet-German relations, we find the significant sentences:  “The Western democracies appear to be framing their policies on the principle of 'letting Germany go east.’ ... [Russia faces] the fundamental need of preventing a hostile coalition of the great Powers of western Europe.”

The final judgment of the Milner Group on the Munich surrender could probably be found in the December 1938 issue of The Round Table, where we read the following:  “The nation as a whole is acutely aware that Anglo-French predominance, resulting from victory in the great war, is now a matter of history, that the conception of an international society has foundered because the principle of the rule of law was prostituted to perpetuate an impossible inequality.... The terms of the Versailles Treaty might have been upheld for some time longer by the consistent use of military power—notably when Germany remilitarized the Rhineland zone—but it was illogical to expect a defeated and humiliated foe to accept inferiority as the immutable concomitant of a nobler world, and it was immoral to try to build the City of God on lopsided foundations.”

As late as the March 1939 issue, The Round Table point of view remained unchanged.  At that time it said:  “The policy of appeasement, which Mr. Chamberlain represents and which he brought to what seemed to be its most triumphant moment at Munich, was the only possible policy on which the public opinion of the different nations of the Commonwealth could have been unified.  It had already been unanimously approved in general terms at the Imperial Conference of 1937.”

The German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939 marked the turning point for the Milner Group, but not for the Chamberlain group.  In the June 1939 issue, the leading article of The Round Table was entitled “From Appeasement to Grand Alliance.”  Without expressing any regrets about the past, which it regarded as embodying the only possible policy, it rejected appeasement in the future.  It demanded a “grand alliance” of Poland, Rumania, France, Britain, and others.  Only one sentence referred to Russia;  it said:  “Negotiations to include Soviet Russia in the system are continuing.”  Most of the article justified the previous policy as inevitable in a world of sovereign states.  Until federation abolishes sovereignty and creates a true world government amenable to public opinion, the nations will continue to live in anarchy, whatever their contractual obligations may be;  and under conditions of anarchy it is power and not public opinion that counts. ... The fundamental, though not the only, explanation of the tragic history of the last eight years is to be found in the failure of the English-speaking democracies to realize that they could prevent aggression only by unity and by being strongly armed enough to resist it wherever it was attempted.”

This point of view had been expressed earlier, in the House of Lords, by Lothian and Astor.  On 12 April 1939, the former said:

One of Herr Hitler’s great advantages has been that, for very long, what he sought a great many people all over the world felt was not unreasonable, whatever they may have thought of his methods.  But that justification has completely and absolutely disappeared in the last three months.  It began to disappear in my mind at the Godesberg Conference. ... I think the right answer to the situation is what Mr. Churchill has advocated elsewhere, a grand alliance of all those nations whose interest is paramountly concerned with the maintenance of their own status-quo.  But in my view if you are going to do that you have got to have a grand alliance which will function not only in the West of Europe but also in the East.  I agree with what my noble friend Lord Snell has just said that in that Eastern alliance Russia may be absolutely vital. ... Nobody will suspect me of any ideological sympathy with Russia or Communism.  I have even less ideological sympathy with Soviet Russia than I had with the Czarist Russia.  But in resisting aggression it is power alone that counts.

He then went on to advocate national service and was vigorously supported by Lord Astor, both in regard to this and in regard to the necessity of bringing Russia into the “grand alliance.”

From this point onward, the course of the Milner Group was more rigid against Germany.  This appeared chiefly as an increased emphasis on rearmament and national service, policies which the Group had been supporting for a long time.  Unlike the Chamberlain group, they learned a lesson from the events of 15 March 1939.  It would be a mistake, however, to believe that they were determined to resist any further acquisition of territory or economic advantage by Germany.  Not at all.  They would undoubtedly have been willing to allow frontier rectifications in the Polish Corridor or elsewhere in favor of Germany, if these were accomplished by a real process of negotiation and included areas inhabited by Germans, and if the economic interests of Poland, such as her trade outlet to the Baltic, were protected.  In this the Milner Group were still motivated by ideas of fairness and justice and by a desire to avoid a war.  The chief changes were two:  (1) they now felt, as they (in contrast to Chamberlain’s group) had long suspected, that peace could be preserved better by strength than by weakness;  and (2) they now felt that Hitler would not stop at any point based only on justice but was seeking world domination.  The short-run goal of the Milner Group still remained a Continent dominated by Hitler between an Oceanic Bloc on the west and the Soviet Union on the east.  That they assumed such a solution could keep the peace, even on a short-term basis, shows the fundamental naïvete of the Milner Group.  The important point is that this view did not prohibit any modification of the Polish frontiers;  not did it require any airtight understanding with the Soviet Union.  It did involve an immediate rearming of Britain and a determination to stop Hitler if he moved by force again.  Of these three points, the first two were shared with the Chamberlain group;  the third was not.  The difference rested on the fact that the Chamberlain group hoped to permit Britain to escape from the necessity of fighting Germany by getting Russia to fight Germany.  The Chamberlain group did not share the Milner Group’s naive belief in the possibility of three great power blocs standing side by side in peace.  Lacking that belief, they preferred a German-Russian war to a British-German war.  And, having that preference, they differed from the Milner Group in their willingness to accept the partition of Poland by Germany.  The Milner Group would have yielded parts of Poland to Germany if done by fair negotiation.  The Chamberlain group was quite prepared to liquidate Poland entirely, if it could be presented to the British people in terms which they would accept without demanding war.  Here again appeared the difference we have already mentioned between the Milner Group and Lloyd George in 1918 and between the Group and Baldwin in 1923, namely that the Milner Group tended to neglect the electoral considerations so important to a party politician.  In 1939 Chamberlain was primarily interested in building up to a victorious electoral campaign for November, and, as Sir Horace Wilson told German Special Representative Wohl in June, “it was all one to the Government whether the elections were held under the cry `Be Ready for a Coming War’ or under a cry `A Lasting Understanding with Germany.' ”

These distinctions between the point of view of the Milner Group and that of the Chamberlain group are very subtle and have nothing in common with the generally accepted idea of a contrast between appeasement and resistance.  There were still appeasers to be found, chiefly in those ranks of the Conservative Party most remote from the Milner Group;  British public opinion was quite clearly committed to resistance after March 1939.  The two government groups between these, with the Chamberlain group closer to the former and the Milner Group closer to the latter.  It is a complete error to say, as most students of the period have said, that before 15 March the government was solidly appeasement and afterwards solidly resistant.  The Chamberlain group, after 17 March 1939, was just as partial to appeasement as before, perhaps more so, but it had to adopt a pretense of resistance to satisfy public opinion and keep a way open to wage the November election on either side of the issue.  The Milner Group was anti-appeasement after March, but in a limited way that did not involve any commitment to defend the territorial integrity of Poland or to ally with Russia.

This complicated situation is made more so by the fact that the Milner Group itself was disintegrating.  Some members, chiefly in the second circle, like Hoare or Simon, continued as wholehearted, if secret, appeasers and became closer to Chamberlain.  Halifax, who did not have to run for office, could speak his mind more honestly and probably had a more honest mind.  He was closer to the Milner Group, although he continued to cooperate so closely with Chamberlain that he undoubtedly lost the prime minister’s post in May 1940 as a result.  Amery, closer than Halifax to the inner core of the Group, was also more of a resister and by the middle of 1939 was finished with appeasement.  Lothian was in a position between Halifax and Amery.

The point of view of the inner core can be found, as usual, in the pages of The Round Table.  In the issue of September 1939, the leading article confessed that Hitler’s aim was mastery of the world.  It continued:  “In this light, any further accretion of German strength-for instance through control of Danzig, which is the key to subjection of all Poland-appears as a retreat from the ramparts of the British Commonwealth itself.  Perhaps our slowness to realize these facts, or at least to act accordingly in building an impregnable defence against aggression in earlier years, accounts for our present troubles.”  For the Milner Group, this constitutes a magnificent confession of culpability.

In the December 1939 issue of The Round Table, the whole tone has reverted to that of 1911-1918.  Gone is the idea that modern Germany was the creation of the United States and Britain or that Nazism was merely a temporary and insignificant aberration resulting from Versailles.  Instead the issue is “Commonwealth or Weltreich?” Nazism “is only Prussianism in more brutal shape.”  It quotes Lord Lothian’s speech of 25 October 1939, made in New York, that “The establishment of a true reign of law between nations is the only remedy for war.”  And we are told once again that such a reign of law must be sought in federation.  In the same issue, the whole of Lothian’s speech was reprinted as a “document.”  In the March 1940 issue, The Round Table harked back even further than 1914.  It quoted an extensive passage from Pericles’s funeral oration in a leading article entitled “The Issue,” and added:  “That also is our creed, but it is not Hitler’s.”

The same point of view of the Group is reflected in other places.  On 16 March 1939, in the Commons, when Chamberlain was still defending the appeasement policy and refusing to criticize Germany’s policy of aggression, Lady Astor cried out to him, “Will the Prime Minister lose no time in letting the German Government know with what horror the whole of this country regards Germany’s action?”

The Prime Minister did not answer, but a Conservative Member, Major Vyvyan Adams, hurled at the lady the remark, “You caused it yourself.”

Major Adams was not a man to be lightly dismissed.  A graduate of Haileybury and Cambridge, past president of the Cambridge Union, member of the Inner Temple Bar, an executive of the League of Nations Union, and a vice-president of Lord Davies’s New Commonwealth Society, he was not a man who did not know what was going on.  He subsequently published two books against appeasement under the pseudonym “Watchman.”

Most of the members of the inner core of the Group who took any public stand on these issues refused to rake over the dead embers of past policy and devoted themselves to a program of preparedness and national service.  The names of Amery, Grigg, Lothian, and The Times became inseparably associated with the campaign for conscription, which ultimately resulted in the National Service Act of 26 April 1939.  The more aloof and more conciliatory point of view of Halifax can be seen in his speech of 9 June in the House of Lords and the famous speech of 29 June before the Royal Institute of International Affairs.  The lingering overtones of appeasement in the former resulted in a spirited attack by Lord Davies, while Arthur Salter, who had earlier been plumping for a Ministry of All the Talents with Halifax as Premier, by the middle of the year was begging him, at All Souls, to meet Stalin face to face in order to get an alliance.[16]

The events of 1939 do not require our extended attention here, although they have never yet been narrated in any adequate fashion.  The German seizure of Bohemia and Moravia was not much of a surprise to either the Milner or Chamberlain groups;  both accepted it, but the former tried to use it as a propaganda device to help get conscription, while the latter soon discovered that, whatever their real thoughts, they must publicly condemn it in order to satisfy the outraged moral feelings of the British electorate.  It is this which explains the change in tone between Chamberlain’s speech of 15 March in Commons and his speech of 17 March in Birmingham.  The former was what he thought;  the latter was what he thought the voters wanted.

The unilateral guarantee to Poland given by Chamberlain on 31 March 1939 was also a reflection of what he believed the voters wanted.  He had no intention of ever fulfilling the guarantee if it could possibly be evaded and, for this reason, refused the Polish requests for a small rearmament loan and to open immediate staff discussions to implement the guarantee.  The Milner Group, less susceptible to public opinion, did not want the guarantee to Poland at all.  As a result, the guarantee was worded to cover Polish “independence” and not her “territorial integrity.”  This was interpreted by the leading article of The Times for 1 April to leave the way open to territorial revision without revoking the guarantee.  This interpretation was accepted by Chamberlain in Commons on 3 April.  Apparently the government believed that it was making no real commitment because, if war broke out in eastern Europe, British public opinion would force the government to declare war on Germany, no matter what the government itself wanted, and regardless whether the guarantee existed or not.  On the other hand, a guarantee to Poland might deter Hitler from precipitating a war and give the government time to persuade the Polish government to yield the Corridor to Germany.  If the Poles could not be persuaded, or if Germany marched, the fat was in the fire anyway;  if the Poles could be persuaded to yield, the guarantee was so worded that Britain could not act under it to prevent such yielding.  This was to block any possibility that British public opinion might refuse to accept a Polish Munich.  That this line of thought was not far distant from British government circles is indicated by a Reuters news dispatch released on the same day that Chamberlain gave the guarantee to Poland.  This dispatch indicated that, under cover of the guarantee, Britian would put pressure on Poland to make substantial concessions to Hitler through negotiations.  According to Hugh Dalton, Labour M.P., speaking in Commons on 3 April, this dispatch was inspired by the government and was issued through either the Foreign Office, Sir Horace Wilson, John Simon, or Samuel Hoare.  Three of these four were of the Milner Group, the fourth being the personal agent of Chamberlain.  Dalton’s charge was not denied by any government spokesman, Hoare contenting himself with a request to Dalton “to justify that statement.”  Another M.P. of Churchill’s group suggested that Geoffrey Dawson was the source, but Dalton rejected this.

It is quite clear that neither the Chamberlain group nor the Milner Group wanted an alliance with the Soviet Union to stop Hitler in 1939, and that the negotiations were not sincere or vigorously pursued.  The Milner Group was not so opposed to such an agreement as the Chamberlain group.  Both were committed to the four-power pact.  In the case of the Chamberlain group, this pact could easily have developed into an anti-Russian alliance, but in the case of the Milner Group it was regarded merely as a link between the Oceanic Bloc and a Germanic Mitteleuropa.  Both groups hated and despised the Soviet Union, but the Milner Group did not fear it as the Chamberlain group did.  This fear was based on the Marxist threat to the British economic system, and the Milner Group was not wedded nearly as closely to that system as Chamberlain and his friends.  The Toynbee-Milner tradition, however weak it had become by 1939, was enough to prevent the two groups from seeing eye to eye on this issue.

The efforts of the Chamberlain group to continue the policy of appeasement by making economic and other concessions to Germany and their efforts to get Hitler to agree to a four-power pact form one of the most shameful episodes in the history of recent British diplomacy.  These negotiations were chiefly conducted through Sir Horace Wilson and consisted chiefly of offers of colonial bribes and other concessions to Germany.  These offers were either rejected or ignored by the Nazis.

One of these offers revolved around a semi-official economic agreement under which British and German industrialists would form cartel agreements in all fields to fix prices of their products and divide up the world’s market.  The Milner Group apparently objected to this on the grounds that it was aimed, or could be aimed, at the United States.  Nevertheless, the agreements continued;  a master agreement, negotiated at Dusseldorf between representatives of British and German industry, was signed in London on 16 March 1939.  A British government mission to Berlin to help Germany exploit the newly acquired areas of eastern Europe was postponed the same day because of the strength of public feeling against Germany.  As soon as this had died down, secret efforts were made through R.S. Hudson, secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, to negotiate with Helmuth Wohlthat, Reich Commissioner for the Four Year Plan, who was in London to negotiate an international whaling agreement.  Although Wholthat had no powers, he listened to Hudson and later to Sir Horace Wilson, but refused to discuss the matter with Chamberlain.  Wilson offered:  (1) a non-aggression pact with Germany;  (2) a delimitation of spheres among the Great Powers;  (3) colonial concessions in Africa along the lines previously mentioned;  (4) an economic agreement.  These conversations, reported to Berlin by Ambassador Dirksen in a dispatch of 21 July 1939, would have involved giving Germany a free hand in eastern Europe and bringing her into collision with Russia.  One sentence of Dirksen’s says:  “Sir Horace Wilson definitely told Herr Wohlthat that the conclusion of a non-aggression pact would enable Britian to rid herself of her commitments vis-a-vis Poland.”  In another report, three days later, Dirksen said:  “Public opinion is so inflamed, and the warmongers and intriguers are so much in the ascendancy, that if these plans of negotiations with Germany were to become public they would immediately be torpedoed by Churchill and other incendiaries with the cry 'No second Munich !' ”

The truth of this statement was seen when news of the Hudson-Wohlthat conversations did leak out and resulted in a violent controversy in the House of Commons, in which the Speaker of the House repeatedly broke off the debate to protect the government.  According to Press Adviser Hesse in the German Embassy in London, the leak was made by the French Embassy to force a break in the negotiations.  The negotiations, however, were already bogging down because of the refusal of the Germans to become very interested in them.  Hitler and Ribbentrop by this time despised the British so thoroughly that they paid no attention to them at all, and the German Ambassador in London found it impossible to reach Ribbentrop, his official superior, either by dispatch or personally.  Chamberlain, however, in his eagerness to make economic concessions to Germany, gave to Hitler £6 million in Czechoslovak gold in the Bank of England, and kept Lord Runciman busy training to be chief economic negotiator in the great agreement which he envisaged.  On 29 July 1939, Kordt, the German charge d’affaires in London, had a long talk with Charles Roden Buxton, brother of the Labour Peer Lord Noel-Buxton, about the terms of this agreement, which was to be patterned on the agreement of 1907 between Britain and Russia.  Buxton insisted that his visit was quite unofficial, but Kordt was inclined to believe that his visit was a feeler from the Chamberlain group.  In view of the close parallel between Buxton’s views and Chamberlain’s, this seems very likely.  This was corroborated when Sir Horace Wilson repeated these views in a highly secret conversation with Dirksen at Wilson’s home from 4 to 6 p.m. on 3 August 1939.  Dirksen’s minute of the same day shows that Wilson’s aims had not changed.  He wanted a four-power pact, a free hand for Germany in eastern Europe, a colonial agreement, an economic agreement, etc.  The memorandum reads, in part:  “After recapitulating his conversation with Wohlthat, Sir Horace Wilson expatiated at length on the great risk Chamberlain would incur by starting confidential negotiations with the German Government.  If anything about them were to leak out there would be a grand scandal, and Chamberlain would probably be forced to resign.”  Dirksen did not see how any binding agreement could be reached under conditions such as this;  “for example, owing to Hudson’s indiscretion, another visit of Herr Wohlthat to London was out of the question.”  To this, Wilson suggested that “the two emissaries could meet in Switzerland or elsewhere.”  The political portions of this conversation were largely repeated in an interview that Dirksen had with Lord Halifax on 9 August 1939.[18]

It was not possible to conceal these activities completely from the public, and, indeed, government spokesmen referred to them occasionally in trial balloons.  On 3 May, Chamberlain suggested an Anglo-German non-aggression pact, although only five days earlier Hitler had denounced the Anglo-German naval agreement of 1935 and the Polish-German non-aggression pact of 1934.  As late as 28 August, Sir Nevile Henderson offered Germany a British alliance if she were successful in direct negotiations with the Poles.[19] This, however, was a personal statement and probably went further than Halifax would have been willing to go by 1939.  Halifax apparently had little faith in Chamberlain’s ability to obtain any settlement with the Germans.  If, by means of another Munich, he could have obtained a German-Polish settlement that would satisfy Germany and avoid war, he would have taken it.  It was the hope of such an agreement that prevented him from making any real agreement with Russia, for it was, apparently, the expectation of the British government that if the Germans could get the Polish Corridor by negotiation, they could then drive into Russia across the Baltic States.  For this reason, in the negotiations with Russia, Halifax refused any multilateral pact against aggression, any guarantee of the Baltic States, or any tripartite guarantee of Poland.  Instead, he sought to get nothing more than a unilateral Russian guarantee to Poland to match the British guarantee to the same country.  This was much too dangerous for Russia to swallow, since it would leave her with a commitment which could lead to war and with no promise of British aid to her if she were attacked directly, after a Polish settlement, or indirectly across the Baltic States.  Only after the German Soviet Non-aggression Pact of 21 August 1939 did Halifax implement the unilateral guarantee to Poland with a more formal mutual assistance pact between Britain and Poland.  This was done to warn Hitler that an attack on Poland would bring Britain into the war under pressure of British public opinion.  Hitler, as usual, paid no attention to Britain.  Even after the German attack on Poland, the British government was reluctant to fulfill this pact and spent almost three days asking the Germans to return to negotiation.  Even after the British were forced to declare war on Germany, they made no effort to fight, contenting themselves with dropping leaflets on Germany.  We now know that the German generals had moved so much of their forces to the east that they were gravely worried at the effects which might follow an Allied attack on western Germany or even an aerial bombing of the Ruhr.

In these events of 1939, the Milner Group took little part.  They must have known of the negotiations with Germany and probably did not disapprove of them, but they had little faith in them and by the early summer of 1939 were probably convinced that war with Germany was inevitable in the long run.  In this view Halifax probably shared, but other former members of the Group, such as Hoare and Simon, by now were completely in the Chamberlain group and can no longer be regarded as members of the Milner Group.  From June 1939 to May 1940, the fissure between the Milner Group and the Chamberlain government became wider.

From the outbreak of war, the Milner Group were determined to fight the war against Germany;  the Chamberlain group, on the other hand, were very reluctant to fight Germany, preferring to combine a declared but unfought war with Germany with a fought but undeclared war with Russia.  The excuse for this last arose from the Russian pressure on Finland for bases to resist a future German attack.  The Russian attack on Finland began on the last day of November 1939;  by 27 December, the British and French were putting pressure on Sweden to join them in action to support the Finns.  In these notes, which have been published by the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the Western Powers stated that they intended to send men, equipment, and money to Finland.  By February 1940, the Western Powers had plans for a force of 30,000 to 40,000 men for Finland and were putting pressure on Sweden to allow passage for this force across Scandinavia.  By 2 March 1940, the British had a force of 100,000 men ready and informed the Swedish and Norwegian governments that “the force with its full equipment is available and could sail at short notice.”  They invited the Scandinavian countries to receive Allied missions to make all the necessary preparations for the transit.  The note to Norway, in an additional passage, said that forces would be sent to the Norwegian ports within four days of receiving permission, and the transit itself could begin on 20 March.  On 12 March the Allies sent to the Scandinavian countries a formal request for right of transit.  It was refused.  Before anything further could be done, Finland collapsed and made peace with Russia.  On 5 April, Halifax sent a very threatening note to the Scandinavian countries.  It said in part:

. . . considering, in consultation with the French Government, the circumstances attending the termination of the war between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Finland and the attitude adopted by the Swedish Government at that time ... they feel therefore that the time has come to notify the Swedish Government frankly of certain vital interests and requirements which the Allied Governments intend to assert and defend by whatever measure they may think necessary.  The vital interests and the requirements which the Allied Governments wish to bring to the notice of the Swedish Government are the following:  (a) The Allied Governments cannot acquiesce in any further attack on Finland by either the Soviet or German Governments.  In the event therefore, of such an attack taking place, any refusal by the Swedish Government to facilitate the efforts of the Allied Governments to come to the assistance of Finland in whatever manner they may think fit, and still more any attempt to prevent such assistance would be considered by the Allied Governments as endangering their vital interests.... (c) Any attempt by the Soviet Government to obtain from Norway a footing on the Atlantic seaboard would be contrary to the vital interests of the Allied Governments.”

The Swedish Foreign Minister expressed his government’s astonishment at this note and its determination to decide such questions for itself and to preserve Sweden’s neutrality in the future as it had been preserved in the past.[20]

It is not clear what was the attitude of the Milner Group toward this effort to open active hostilities against the Soviet Union while remaining technically in a state of war with Germany.  Halifax was still at the , Foreign Office and apparently actively concerned in this project.  The Times was wholeheartedly in favor of the plan.  On 5 March, for example, it said of the Finnish war:  “It is becoming clearer every day that this war is no side issue.  Finland is defending more than the cause of liberty and more than her own soil. ... Our own cause is being butressed by her resistance to the evil of tryanny. ... Our interest is clear and there is a moral issue involved as well as the material.  The whole sentiment of this country demands that Finland should not be allowed to fall.”

The Round Table, in the only issue which appeared during the Finnish troubles, had a propagandist article on “The Civilization of Finland.”  It called Finland “one of the most democratic nations, on any definition, in all Europe.”  The rest of the article was a paean of praise for the kind and magnanimous conduct of the Finnish government in every crisis of its history from 1917, but nothing was said about the Finnish war, nor was there any mention of Allied aid.

During this period the Milner Group became increasingly impatient with the Chamberlain group.  This was clear from the June 1940 issue of The Round Table, which criticized the Cabinet reshuffle of April as evoking “almost universal derision.”  It also criticized Chamberlain’s failure to include able members of his own party in the Cabinet.  This may have been a reference to Amery’s continued exclusion.  The article said:  “This lack of imagination and courage could be seen in almost every aspect of the Chamberlain Government’s conduct of the war.”  It excluded Simon and Hoare as possible prime ministers, on the ground that they were too close to Chamberlain.  It was probably thinking of Halifax as prime minister, but, when the time came, others thought him, also, to be too closely associated with appeasement.  On the crucial day, 8 May 1940, the Group was badly split.  In fact, on the division that preceded Chamberlain’s resignation, Lady Astor voted against the government, while her brother-in-law, John Jacob Astor, voted with the government.  The debate was one of the most bitter in recent history and reached its high point when Amery cried out to the Government benches the words of Cromwell:  “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing.  Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.  In the name of God, go!” In the ensuing division, the whips were on with a vengeance, but the government’s majority was only 81, more than a hundred Conservatives abstaining from voting.  Most of the Milner Group members, since they held offices in the government, had to vote with it.  Of the inner core, only Amery and Lady Astor broke away.  In the majority, still supporting Chamberlain, were J.J. Astor, Grigg, Hoare, Malcolm MacDonald, Salter, Simon, and Somervell.  But the fight had been too bitter.  Chamberlain was replaced by Churchill, and Amery came to office (as Secretary of State for India).  Once again the Milner Group and the government were united on the issues.  Both, from 8 May 1940, had only one aim:  to win the war with Germany.


8 Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, The Great Experiment (London, 1941), 166.  The quotations from Lord Esher’s Journals and Letters (4 vols., London, 1938) are in Vol. IV, 227, 250, and 272.

9 Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, The Great Experiment (London, 1941), 250.

10 The whole memorandum and other valuable documents of this period will be found in USSR, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Documents and Materials Relating to the Eve of the Second World War (5 vols., 1948-1949), Vol. I, November 1937-1938.  From the Archives of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13-45.  The authenticity of these documents was challenged by an “unnamed spokesman” for the British Foreign Office when they were first issued, but I am informed by the highest American authority on the captured German documents that the ones published by the Russians are completely authentic.

11 Keith Feiling, Life of Neville Chamberlain (London, 1941), 333.  The author is a Fellow of All Souls, close to the Milner Group, and wrote his book on the basis of the late Prime Minister’s papers, which were made available by the family.

12 See Lionel Curtis, Civitas Dei; The Commonwealth of God (London, 1938), 914-930.

13 Robert J. Stopford, a close associate of the Milner Group whom we have already mentioned on several occasions, went to Czechoslovakia with Runciman as a technical adviser.  See J.W. Wheeler-Bennett, Munich:  Prologue to Tragedy (New York, 1948), 79, n.l.

14 The reference to Professor Schumann is in J.W. Wheeler-Bennett, Munich (New York, 1948), 436, n.l.  If Mr. Wheeler-Bennett had placed a little more credence in the “pre-Munich plot,” many of the facts which he cannot explain would be easily fitted into the picture.  Among them we might point out the mystifying (to Mr. Wheeler-Bennett) fact that Lord Runciman’s report of 16 September went further than either Hitler or Henlein in demanding sacrifices from the Czechs (see Munich, p. 112).  Or again he would not have had to make such an about-face as that between page 96 and page 97 of the book.  On page 96, The Times’s demand of 7 September was similar to the views of Mr. Chamberlain, as expressed at Lady Astor’s on 10 May, and “Geoffrey Dawson was a personal friend of Lord Halifax.”  But on page 97, “The thoughtless irresponsibility of The Times did not voice at that moment the views of His Majesty’s Government.  If Mr. Wheeler-Bennett had added to his picture a few additional facts, such as a more accurate version of German re-armaments, Runciman’s letter of 2 September to Hitler, etc., he would have found it even more difficult to make his picture of Munich stand up.

15 Count Helmuth James von Moltke, a German of the Resistance (Johannesburg, 1947).  See also Allen W. Dulles, Germany’s Underground (New York, 1947), 85-90.  The additional letter added to the Johannesburg publication was written by von Moltke to his wife just before his death.  Curtis’s name is mentioned in it.

16 On this whole movement, see Hans Rothfels, The German Opposition to Hitler (Hinsdale, Illinois, 1948), and F.L. Ford, “The Twentieth of July in the History of the German Resistance” in The American Historical Review (July 1946), LI, 609-626.  On Kordt’s message to Lord Halifax, see Rothfels, 58-63.

17 A.C. Johnson, Viscount Halifax (New York, 1941), 531.

18 USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Documents and Materials Relating to the Eve of the Second World War II. Dirksen Papers (1938-1939) (Moscow, 1948), 126-131.

19 British Blue Book, Cmd. 6106.

20 All documents on these negotiations will be found in a Swedish Foreign Ministry White Paper, Forspelet till det tyska angreppet pa Danmark och Norge den 9 April 1940 (Stockholm 1947).