THE GOAT AND THE VINE
AN ADDRESS BY SIR ANDREW MACPHAIL
December 6, 1934
SIR ANDREW MACPHAIL was introduced by the President of The Empire Club, Mr. Dana Porter.
MR. DANA PORTPR: Gentlemen, it is a privilege which is, perhaps, too rare, to be able to entertain a guest of hon our from McGill University. We are so absorbed in this City with the idea of the importance of the University of Toronto that perhaps sometimes we fail to realize that there is another university which is equally or, perhaps, more important than the University of Toronto. This was once brought home to me rather strikingly when at a dinner in England I was sitting beside a graduate of an American university. He asked me where I carne from and I told him that I was a graduate of the University of Toronto. He looked rather perplexed and said, "Toronto?--Toronto?--That is in McGill, is it not?" (Laughter.) Perhaps ignorance sometimes has a peculiar way of hitting upon the truth.
It is with great pleasure today that I introduce Sir Andrew Macphail who is well known to you all for his literary works. You are familiar with his military career and his distinction in the field of medicine.
Sir Andrew Macphail is now Professor of Medical History at McGill University and is eminent in a variety of activities. It is with very great pleasure that I introduce him now.
SIR ANDREW MACPHAIL: I find myself familiarly at home in this Empire Club. You are not ashamed of the term, "Empire." I am well aware that some years ago, many of us were out of Canada, and when we came home we discovered that some dialectician had found in the dictionary a new word to describe our status, the word "Commonwealth."
I remind myself also, that fourteen years ago I addressed this same Club upon a subject which at that time was merely of academic repute, but has since become one of stern reality. In that year I was in the company of twenty-eight of the most distinguished speakers in what was then known as the Empire, speaking to a Club 'which had more than four thousand members; and I now see signs that the Club is equally vital. General Fotheringham my military father, is at my right hand, and many of my comrades in the audience.
I propose today to present to you a new reading of the old fable "The Goat and the Vine." The Goat gnawed the Vine to the root; but the vine grew again, and yielded grapes whilst the goat lay dead upon the altar. It is only a fable; but every fable expresses a universal truth. Twenty years ago voices were crying aloud in the wilderness the fable of the "Wolf." Few believed them, but the wolf did come.
Germany is the Vine. France is the Goat. In these forty minutes, if you can bear with me, I propose to trace the process by which we too become the goat. History is the master to whom we all must go, history with his pensive and melancholy face. The thing that has been is the thing that will be; and the history passing under our eyes is the history hardest to read. Never was so much, written never so little understood. The thread is lost in the vast accumulation of contemporary writing. We must find that thread as a guide for the future.
In the early years of this century we forgot the desperate truth that war is the father of all things. We are yet living under the shadow of it. We also forgot the menace by which Disraeli, that unsentimental "old Jew," brought Bismarck to bay; "Whatever happens we will not drift into war; if we come to war, it will be because we intend it, and have an object to achieve." In 1914, we drifted, we were manouevered, into war. We had forgotten that things have their consequences. This is a warning for the future.
After the Boer war we had an uneasy conscience. We achieved "a splendid isolation," and found ourselves thwarted at every point. In 1904, we made an Agreement with France„ made by Lord Lansdowne with his Flahault blood, and enthusiastically approved by Edward Grey with his innocent and exquisite nature. For him "the gloomy clouds were gone, the sky was clear, and the sun shone warmly;" he felt "as if there were some benign influence abroad" In ten years we were to pay the price of this benignity. Only two English voices were raised in warning, that of Lord Rosebery and Winston Churchill.
The fleet was removed from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. That was a sign to Germany. Then followed secret conversations between the naval and military staffs of the two nations. Protest as we might, that the Agreement demanded only diplomatic support and that these conversations were merely hypothetical, bonds were created that were inescapable, and war inevitable. No one in Canada and few in England, suspected the extent of those obligations. The question we should now put to ourselves is this: What obligation now exists whereby we may drift into war once more, or lay us under the charge of perfidy to France if we abstain? If again we are to fight side by side with the French, we should begin at once to devise a sound strategy, lest we and' they be involved in a disaster similar to that which befell us in 1914. If it is to be war, now is the time to prepare. If it is to be peace, now is the time to make for peace, lest we drift into war once more.
We surrendered the conduct of the war to the French. We became the victims of their mistaken strategy and their internal political disorders. Until August 8th, 1918, every battle we fought was dictated not by military principles, but by French political necessity. A French general would be appointed not for his military capacity alone, but according as he was Protestant or Catholic, Royalist or Republican. The Somme was fought, "a marked failure," as Clemenceau says in his book, quoting the words of General Bugnet, "that it was later tried to pass off as a mere attempt to ease Verdun." Passchendaele was fought to cover up the courageous mutiny of sixteen French Divisions following Nivelle's mad disaster, a form of courage in which the British were sadly lacking. Battles that were lost were justified on the ground of political necessity.
Those who speak lightly of Sir Douglas Haig and the British army would do well to remember the bondage in which they worked. The recent criticism of Haig by Mr. Lloyd George is drawn from old French sources through the medium of a French-speaking Irishman whom I have described elsewhere as the Play-boy of the Western Front.
We fought continuously under the eye of French criticism. General Rawlinson surveying the Somme battlefield on the first day, when he lost 50,000 dead, was content. "The French," he declared, "will now be convinced that we are pulling our share." They were not convinced; they are not yet convinced. Fifty thousand gold sovereigns expended in the collection of the truth and disseminating it in the proper quarter by the adroit fingers of Lord Northcliffe would have been more fruitful in producing conviction. In the early days, no war correspondents were allowed in the field The public was dependant upon official bulletins which in the attempt to deceive the enemy concealed from English and French alike the magnitude of the effort both were making.
In March 1918, both we and the French were faced with disaster by the last despairing effort of the Germans to separate the two armies and force their way to the sea. They fell upon the Fifth Army with all their force. General Gough fought a rear-guard battle of thirty miles, and brought them to the limit of their last advance. Gough in the first assault had none of the help promised by the French, and little, it may be added, from the British on his flank. The French in panic were falling back on Paris; the British Cabinet was in panic too. That was the moment of the apparent ascendency of Foch over Haig. The event occurred at the Doullens meeting. But the Foch legend has long since perished.
By our complacency at Doullens, Foch allowed himself to believe that he was Generalissimo. Sir Douglas Haig has been given too much credit for his selfabnegation; he renounced nothing; he had the final formula under his hand: Le general Foch est charge par les gouvernments britannique et francais de coordonner faction des armees aliees sur le front ouest. He will listen to, s'entendra, the Commanders-in-chief, who are invited to supply him with all necessary information. Haig's purpose was that Foch should coordinate the French, which he did; and leave Haig's strategy alone, which he also did; with the result that the war was over in 1918 instead of in 1919, which was the best Foch hoped f or.
On the same day, March 26th, Foch visited Gough. He was in a state of excitement. He addressed to Gough a series of inane questions, and without waiting reply dismissed him from his Command and drove away. That night Gough who commanded 300,000 British soldiers, and had Just won a crucial battle, had no place to eat or to sleep. There was no Lieut. Spears present to remind Foch as he had reminded Lanrezac, "England will never forgive France, and France cannot afford to forgive you." Neither Foch, nor Joffre either, thought sufficiently well of the English. Von Kluck was of a different opinion. He said to Col. Stewart Roddie, the first British officer he met after the war: "In the whole history of the world, there is, in my opinion, no military feat which has excelled, and few which have equalled, that accomplished by the first British army. My admiration for that army is greater than I can express."
With all his excellencies, Foch was not tactful. As Clemenceau said of him, he was without a magnaminous heart. Possibly he was not the best qualified to convey the terms of the Armistice to the Germans. They had accepted the terms on the basis of President Wilson's Fourteen Points, and on that basis they had agreed to evacuate France and Belgium, and to disarm. Two trains drew up side by side in the forest of Compaegne. In one was Foch; in the other Erzberger, who records: "The terms were given to me, dished out as to a dog, to swallow them whole. I could not believe it; it could not be possible. If I refused to accept the terms, it meant ten thousand lives thrown away each day. Cold sweat broke out upon me. I signed the armistice terms; and then I went out and was sack. I knew I was signing my death warrant." This is his own account to Col. Roddie. I recommend to you his "Peace Patrol." It was so. He was shot dead by the enemies he had aroused.
For the next seven months, the Treaty of Versailles) was in the making. The Germans hoped for the best. They relied upon the 14 Points, they trusted the English. The English are gerecht, righteous, they said. They saw us in Cologne at Christmas,, like guests in the house of a host. They remembered the address of Lloyd George from Downing Street on the day after the armistice: "No settlement which contravenes the principles of eternal justice will be. a permanent one. Let us be warned by the example of 1871. We must not allow any sense of revenge any spirit of greed, any grasping desire to override the fundamental principle of righteousness. Vigorous attempts will be made to hector and bully the Government, to satisfy some base, sordid squalid ideas of vengeance and avarice."
These attempts were made, and we forgot our old Imperial way of peace. When a war was over it was over, and enemies must continue to live in the same world. General Smuts understood that principle. But the peacemaking fell into quite other hands in the world-hysteria of which Paris was the centre: Lloyd George fresh from the hustings, a victim of the militant patriotism that returned him to power; Clemenceau with his tigerish temper; Wilson aghast as he felt his power slipping away; Orlando greedy for spoils.
The Treaty that emerged bore only the slightest resemblance to the 14 Points. Of the 22 peace terms, 19 were flagrantly violated; but Germany was disarmed and the blockade continued. They were compelled to accept the new terms imposed upon them. The Treaty was signed June 23rd, 1919„ by Muller and Bell alone in the Hall of Mirrors, deathly pale, in a terrifying silence, with two thousand staring eyes fixed upon the ceiling. The two delegates were conducted out, like prisoners from the dock. As Bockdorff-Rantzau said, "the sentence was penal servitude instead of death." I recommend you to read Harold Nicolson's "Peacemaking."
In Germany the Treaty was received with indignation and horror, which was not lessened by the events of the subsequent occupations. The French are not sensitive to colour. The English and Germans are. The French quartered black troops upon them, even in the house of Queen Victoria's grand-daughter. The terms were impossible, but the Germans did their best to fulfil them. The indemnity demanded in gold was more than all the gold that has been extracted from the earth since the Spaniards discovered America.
The Vine was gnawed to the root. Let us now look at the new Germany that has arisen. It is only in the moment of a great emotion that a nation discloses itself. A nation is judged by the hero it creates for itself. The German hero is Hindenburg. The revealing emotion was aroused by his death, and his burial on the field of Tannenberg, made famous for all time by his victory, where he, the best known was laid side by side with the "un known German soldier." He was the inspiration of the new Germany. We need not wonder at this renascence. Let us imagine our own future if some power should free us from private mortgage, from public debt, from derelict factories, from our National Railway. The spirit of our youth would assert itself.
Men see with the eyes they bring with them. Making allowance for that aberration, recent visitors tell us of a renewed youth hardened by exercise and by games to replace the fat boy and the Backfisch of the caricatures. There is "internal unity." Every one is at work. Labour and the employers of labour are brought under control. They are quite free to complain if they do not mind going to a concentration camp. Even the best of the Jews are satisfied. They desire only to be left alone by the Diaspora„ the dispersed in America. They look upon that part of the American press controlled by the Jews as their most troublesome friends.
Most ominous of all, they have evoked a new religion. The manifesto was adopted at a Congress of which profesor Havet of Tubingon was the head, it was published in French in L'Europe Nouvelle in July, and in English translation by Professor A. H. Charteris. It contains twenty-seven articles divided into three parts, the Sublime, Morality, and Race. Although it lacks the logic of the Pauline theology and the precision of the Moslem, it like them may be a powerful force.
In the past sixteen years, the Germans have had their revolutions and civil wars. The French, and the Americans too, can well understand from their own history that these operations cannot be conducted without violence. But Germany has divested herself of the parliamentary garb that has never fitted her form, following the example of Russia, Italy, the United States and four other European nations. The war was intended to leave Democracy safe, but at the present rate of progress it will soon be safe in the grave. France likewise is making good progress in freeing herself; and we need not reproach those nations too bitterly for abandoning the forms of democracy, seeing that we ourselves endured a Commonwealth for only twelve years, and hailed the accession of Charles If. If the Germans choose to return to the Monarchy, it will not be for us to complain. We did not give much support to their new Republic.
The hardest to forgive is the one whom we have wronged. The Germans wronged us by the war. We wronged them in the peace. It is not yet too late to accept the divine advice to agree with the enemy lest worse befall.
Germany is in the mood for agreement. She is confident and defiant. She is not bellicose or belligerent. She has had enough of that. The small mid-European nations are following this advice. But she must first convince us that she is able and willing to abide by the new terms.
Until the wrong in the treaty is set right there will be nothing more than an armistice, no peace, no security. Even in that time of world-hysteria the framers of the treaty had some such prevision. They showed the way in article XIX, inserted in the Covenant, which provides for "a reconsideration of treaties and of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world." The League of Nations can now restore its falling prestige by performing that inherent function, but it is as yet the main bulwark of the Treaty of Versailles.
French hatred and desire for revenge was not our hatred or our desire for revenge. The hatred inspired in the war diminished as we approached the Front. There were, of course, atrocities; but all war is an atrocity; and as Napoleon said, war breeds lies as the earth breeds worms; and Lord Northcliffe was the father of our propaganda. We came to believe it ourselves.
There is yet time at my disposal to return to Hindenburg, the. national hero in his life, death, and burial. He was a Prussian, a soldier, the son, of a soldier. He re tired from the army in 1911. Living at his ease, in the 68th year of his age, he received a telegram from the
Kaiser, asking him if he would take the field. His reply was "I am ready." In three weeks he cleared the Russians out of East Prussia. He was Commander-in-chief until the end, when he led the defeated army home. It was he who advised the Kaiser to abdicate; he was president of the Republic until his death at the age of eighty seven. He adopted Hitler as his Chancellor and made it easy for him to succeed to the presidency; and yet he never swerved from his ancient loyalties to his Fatherland.
All this is written by himself in his Aus Mienem Leben. "My parents," he says "gave me the best that parents can give, a faith in God the master, an unbounded love for the fatherland, devotion to the Prussian kings." On his seventieth birthday the Kaiser, his king and master„ was the first to bring him good wishes: "this was the greatest consecration of the day." He left the army to make room for younger men. "I must not leave the fact unmentioned," he notes, "that I was married in Stettin; my wife is a soldier's child too. I found in her a loving mate, loyally sharing joy and sorrow, care and labour, my best friend and comrade." She procreated with him once son and two daughters. He and their husbands all served in the war.
He assigns the causes of the war as they appeared to him: Germany was spreading too far abroad, and not strong enough in Europe. High tides of French jingoism threatened her; their origin was known. England and Russia gave power open or secret, conscious or unconscious, to those driving springs; there was a hostile polity mobilizing foreign rapacities against Germany with her open frontiers, her feeble allies, and unreliable populations beyond. He did not fear war; although it had "elevating effects," he wished it postponed as long as was thinkable.
Strange as it may seem, he does not believe that the Germans were responsible for the war. On the contrary, at the dedication of the Tannenberg Monument, September 18th 1927, Hindenburg expressed this dissent: "The whole German nation unanimously protests against the accusation that Germany is guilty of that greatest of all wars. It was not envy, hatred, or a desire for conquest that armed our hands. Pure of heart we went to war for the defence of our country. Germany is ready at any time to prove that to impartial judges."
He reconciled the army to the new order: "Comrades in the German army, which was so great and proud, why do you despair? Think of the men who more than a hundred years ago created the fatherland for us. Their religion was their belief in themselves and in the sacredness of their cause. This time too continuity with our great past will be preserved and reestablished." He resigned his command in June 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Once more he went into retirement at Hanover, where he looked with complacency upon the list of "war criminals" whose surrender was to be sought, although his own name was second on the list. He knew it was all a sinister farce, a pretence to gratify the baser elements by the scent of blood, "a madness," as Lord Rosebery thought it.
In his own appeal to the electors, he declared: An attempt must he made to carry out the international agreements of recent years; but if the future shows that Germany cannot carry out her obligations, then better ways must be sought in peaceful collaboration with these States.
Nor does one look for precision of statement in a funeral oration. On the day of Hindenburg's death„ the Government issued a proclamation, calling to mind his inestimable merits making for the peace and welfare of the people; when everything else was shaking, he remained steadfast; he built the bridge from the past to the future. The nation would preserve a grateful and inspiring memory of a soldier and politician, an example of austere and heroic conception of duty. On the day, before the funeral, the Fuhrer addressed the Reichstag in a lyric, reciting his deeds, and the faith he kept with his people. At the burial service next day, these sentiments were renewed.
In his Testament which was used to good purpose by Hitler in the election, he expresses the assurance that what he longed for in 1919 came to slow fruition in 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, and would ripen into the complete perfection of the historic mission of his people. "So, I can close my eyes in peace." But yet, he was equally convinced that "when the present tidal wave of wild political passions and empty phrases had subsided, the rock of the German Kaiserdom would reappear." It is an ambiguous testament.
His funeral the Times thought the most impressive since the funeral of Queen Victoria. And it adds editorially that the flags flown at half-mast over hundreds of unofficial buildings in London were a British tribute to the courage and patriotism of this Prussian soldier, whose character remained unspoiled by victory, and unshaken by defeat. This, it concludes, "was the last great muster of the veterans who fought under Hindenburg with dogged courage against half the world." MacKensen was there. Von Kluck was on his own deathbed. A nation is to be judged by the heroes it adopts as its own. These sentiments were general. In Paris even, L'Illustration did him the compliment of comparing him with Joffre "with whom he had much in common: la ponderation, le sangfroid imperturable, le bon sens, la volonte tenace, et aussi la meme bonhomie ironiques le meme equilibre intellectual et physique, le meme appetit robuste, et jusqu'a la meme faculte de recuperation nerveuse par le sommeil. "France remembers only one thing -from one end to the other of his long life he was le serviteur integre et passionne de son pays."
His final appraisal of himself is contained in his last confession: As a human being I thought my own thoughts, acted and erred. In my life and actions I was not influenced by the applause of the world, but by my own conviction, conscience, and sense of duty. My vision is unshaken, turned forward and upward, and will so remain. The Vine is growing from the root once more; but the wine to be yielded by the grapes may be a wine of hot and bitter tears.