WILL THE SUGGESTED SEVEN-POWER TREATY TAKE THE PLACE OF THE PROTOCOL?
AN ADDRESS BY THE HON. N. W. ROWELL, K.C.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
March 26, 1925.
Those of us who were privileged to hear His Excellency, Lord Byng, in his notable address to the Canadian Club on Monday last on the subject of "Public Opinion" must have been impressed with the emphasis he placed on the importance, in a democracy, of a well-informed and intelligent public opinion as a potent influence in the government of a country. May one be permitted to ask, what is the public opinion in Canada in reference to the Protocol, one of the most important documents dealing with the peace and security of the world which any government or people has ever been called upon to consider? Is there any real public opinion in Canada on the question? It is true a number of influential voices have been raised in favor of the Protocol, and there has been criticisms in certain' sections of the press some of which, while the best intentioned, I am sorry to say indicated a lack of knowledge of the provisions and implications of the Protocol. I think one must frankly admit that there is no real public opinion in Canada on the question of the Protocol, and what is true of the Protocol is
Hon. Mr. Rowell was leader of the Liberal Opposition, Ontario Legislature, 1911-1917; member of Dominion Parliament, 1917-21; president Privy Council of Canada, 191720; member Imperial War Cabinet, 1918; represented Canada at International Labour Conference, Washington, 1919; and was Canadian Delegate to League of Nations, Geneva, 1920.
equally true of many other matters of international moment affecting Canada.
The fact is that we have not so far developed a real public opinion on many questions of international moment affecting us is no doubt largely due to the consideration that for so large a part of our history we have been dealing with domestic issues alone. In more recent years and particularly since the war, we have been called upon to consider the larger matters affecting the Empire and the world and we have not yet reached the point where these external issues occupy our minds or receive at oar hands the consideration which their intrinsic importance deserves.
Do we realize that approximately fifty percent of the products of the farm, the forest and the mine of Canada finds a market outside our own borders, that of our exports of these products three-fourths find a market in Europe? Our nearest neighbor to the South occupies quite a different position. Four-fifths of the products of the farm, the forest and the mine of the United States are consumed within the United States. We export so large a percent of these products that the prices our producers receive are determined not so much by conditions in Canada as by the prices received for export, and therefore external conditions--the conditions which determine our export price--have a vital bearing upon the progress and the economic development of Canada. During the past three or four years we had very large crops of grain in Western Canada. The world needed our wheat, but the prices which the farmers received were determined not by the world's needs but by the purchasing power of our consumers. The economic depression through which Western Canada has passed during the past three or four years, and which is now happily passing, has been more largely due to the conditions in Europe than to any domestic problems affecting us in Canada. I venture to suggest, Mr. Chairman, that important as is the question of tariffs--whether it be higher or lower--important as are the questions of transportation and freight rates on land and on sea, no change within the limits of the practical, either in tariff or in transportation rates, or both, can possibly affect the prosperity of the people of Canada during the next few years as much as an improvement in the purchasing power of our foreign customers. If, by a change in external conditions, that purchasing power is further improved and the products of the forest, the farm and the mine command such a price as will provide an adequate return to the producers, there would be an immediate revival of the prosperity of these industries, a great improvement in economic conditions, particularly in Western Canada, and with these would come a complete change in the economic conditions of Eastern Canada. As Canadian citizens should we not, if from no higher motive than our industrial progress and prosperity, take a larger interest in those external questions that affect so largely the progress and the future of our country?
In addition, Mr. Chairman, it is particularly fitting at this Empire Club that we should remind ourselves, that everything that vitally affects the British Empire affects directly or indirectly the Dominion of Canada, and because of the interests of the Empire in the larger affairs of the world we, in Canada, should take a keen interest in these questions. Canada is also a member of the League of Nations, and as these external problems come before the League for consideration, many of them for decision, we should take an increasing interest in international affairs. If we are to be true Canadians our vision must not be confined to Canada. May not one appeal for a more widespread interest in the discussions and considerations of international affairs?
Turning now to the subject for consideration today, it would appear that Germany's proposal for a treaty of mutual assurance with the powers interested in the Rhine frontier has enlisted a strong support of Great Britain, and the negotiation of a treaty, on the basis of Germany's proposal, has recently been put forward by the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Austin Chamberlain, as a substitute for the Protocol. The full text of Germany's proposal, made to London, Paris, Rome and Brussels, has not yet been made public, but its substance has been the subject of public discussion in the Parliaments and press of Europe. Probably the clearest statement of its provisions was that made by Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons on Tuesday last. Germany's proposal would appear to be substantially as follows:
1. Germany offers to enter into a treaty of mutual guarantee of her present Western Frontier with the powers particularly interested, viz: France, Belgium, Great Britain and Italy, and she offers in this treaty to guarantee the fulfillment of Articles 42 and 43 of the Treaty of Versailles.
These articles are as follows:
Article 42. "Germany is forbidden to maintain or construct any fortifications either on the left bank of the Rhine or on the right bank to the west of a line drawn 50 kilometers to the East of the Rhine." Article 43. "In area defined above the maintenance and the assembly of armed forces, either permanently or temporarily, and military manoeuvres of any kind, as well as the upkeep of all permanent works for mobilization, are in the same way forbidden."
Article 44 which should be read in connection with this proposal is as follows:
"In case Germany violates in any manner whatever the provisions of Articles 42 and 43, she shall be regarded as committing an hostile act against the Powers signatory of the present Treaty and as calculated to disturb the peace of the world."
2. Germany also offers to enter into a general treaty of arbitration with the same powers, and a similar treaty of arbitration with other powers having a common frontier with her. This would particularly apply to Poland and Czecho-Slovakia on Germany's Eastern frontier.
3. Germany is prepared to say "she renounces the idea of recourse to war to change the frontiers in the East, but she is not prepared to say that in regard to these frontiers that she renounces hope of some day to modify some of their provisions by friendly negotiation, by diplomatic procedure of by the good offices of the League of Nations." (Extract from Mr. Chamberlain's statement.)
In this connection it is important to bear in mind the terms of the covering letter which M. Clemenceau, acting on behalf of the Allied and Associated Powers, addressed to Germany when he sent a copy of the treaty to the German Delegates. The letter contained the following statement:
"The Allied and Associated Powers believe that the Treaty is not only a just settlement of the great war but that it provides a basis upon which the peoples of Europe can live together in friendship and equality and that at the same time it creates the machinery of peaceful adjustment of all international problems by discussion and consent, whereby the settlement of 1919 itself can be modified from time to time to suit new facts and new conditions as they arise."
Article 19 of the Treaty forming part of the Covenant of the League of Nations provides:
"The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration, by members of the League, of Treaties which have become inapplicable and the consideration of international conditions whose conditions might endanger the peace of the world."
The German proposal in reference to her Eastern Frontier would appear to have this provision of the Covenant in mind.
You will recall that when the Treaty of Versailles was under negotiation, France stipulated for additional security against German aggression. The form which that security took was two treaties of guarantee to France, one by Great Britain and the other by the United States, to protect France against the unprovoked aggression of Germany. Articles 42 and 43 of the Treaty of Versailles, already referred to, are the particular provisions of the treaty of Versailles to which these guarantees relate. As you all know, these treaties did not go into effect, and this has been one of the standing grievances of France ever since the Treaty of Versailles. It should be noted that a provision was inserted in the Treaty to protect France against the contingency of these treaties of guarantee not going into effect, but France has not considered that provision adequate.
The fundamental difference between Germany's proposal and these lapsed treaties of guarantee is that whereas these lapsed treaties only guaranteed France against the unprovoked aggression of Germany, the German proposal would guarantee Germany against the unprovoked aggression of France. In other words, it is a treaty of mutual assurance to preserve the existing boundary and to maintain the peace of the Rhine front.
Mr. Chamberlain has said that Germany's proposal may constitute a new starting point for European peace. It indicates that the present Government is sincerely desirous of promoting permanent peace in Europe and is prepared to go a long distance to secure it. She agrees to accept as permanent her present Western boundaries established under the Treaty of Versailles, which gives Alsace and Lorraine to France and two small strips of territory to Belgium, and to enter into a mutual pact to guarantee this frontier and also the provisions of Articles 42 and 43 of the Treaty of Versailles. She is prepared to agree not to endeavor to change her Eastern frontier by force-though she will not guarantee its permanence-and she is prepared to enter into arbitration treaties with all the powers concerned to make provision for the settlement of disputes.
These proposals of Germany appear to have received the whole-hearted support of the British Government as constituting a basis for the pacification of Europe.
The British Government evidently considers that an agreement between France and Germany, voluntarily entered into, under which they would agree to co-operate with each other to maintain a common frontier and to settle their disputes by peaceable means, would, in the end, be a better security for France than a continuation of present conditions with its mutual irritation, hostility and hate.
The Governments of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia have already declared their opposition, contending that Germany should guarantee their Eastern frontiers in the same way as she is prepared to guarantee her Western, but Mr. Chamberlain has stated that Germany will not do this and his view clearly is that she should not be called upon to do so.
It is understood that Poland and Czecho-Slovakia have protested to France against the acceptance of such a proposal, on the ground that they are not adequately protected. France must decide whether she will co-operate with Great Britain in endeavouring to work out a treaty or pact along the lines of German proposals or at the instance of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia, refuse this advance on the part of Germany. As Poland is an Ally of France and Czecho-Slovakia acts in co-operation with France, one can understand the great difficulties any French Government must face in dealing with these proposals.
What should be Canada's attitude toward the German proposals? Will they form a subject of discussion in the Canadian House of Commons and the press? They undoubtedly should. Both Parliament and the country should be fully informed on matters of such great importance. If such a treaty is concluded, undoubtedly the Dominions will be asked to be parties to it. Should Canada join in such a treaty? One does not wish to prejudice the matter or express any positive opinion until the situation is more fully developed, but one can see serious objections to Canada committing herself to any obligations under a purely European pact.
When at the Peace Conference, Great Britain and the United States agreed to sign Treaties of Guarantee to protect France against unprovoked aggression of Germany. The British treaty provided:
"The present treaty shall impose no obligation upon
any of the Dominions of the British Empire unless and until it is approved by the Parliament of the Dominion concerned."
You will recall that the Government of Canada, while it submitted the Treaty of Versailles to the House of Commons for approval, did not submit this Treaty of Guarantee or recommend that Canada should be a party to it. I believe the Government of Canada had sound and sufficient reasons for adopting this line of action and both the form of the treaty and the course pursued by the Government of Canada constitute a precedent not without value at the present time.
Although it would appear from the press despatches that Mr. Chamberlain has put forward this proposal as an alternative to the Protocol, it does not appear that Germany has done so or that Germany considers this proposal as consistent with the Protocol. Dr. Luther, the German Chancellor, speaking in the Reichstag, made the following reference to the Protocol:
"M. Herriot put forward as an ultimate objective a world pact, which had already been sketched in the Geneva Protocol last autumn. Such a world pact appeals to me also as an absolute objective. Whether it lies within the reach of immediate attainment seems to me uncertain."
An examination of the Protocol and of Germany's proposals clearly shows that one is not a substitute for the other.
The Protocol embodies three principles--disarmament, arbitration and security. It seeks to obtain these great ends by the following methods:--
1. By bringing about a general agreement among the nations for the limitation of armaments, and unless this is secured the other provisions of the Protocol do not go into effect.
2. By securing the agreement of the nations that they will not resort to war to settle international disputes but will submit all such disputes to peaceful methods of settlement and accept a decision so arrived at.
3. By providing for the imposition of sanctions, diplomatic, economic and military, against any state which signs the Protocol and violates its agreement by resorting to war without submitting its dispute to the methods of settlement provided in the Protocol, or, if in defiance of the decision rendered, it resorts to war contrary to the terms of the decision rendered. These provisions of the Protocol are a development and expansion of the present Covenant of the League of Nations.
Of these subjects of the Protocol, Arbitration and Disarmament were the two stressed by Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, the British Prime Minister, in his proposals at the last Assembly of the League. Security and Arbitration were the two most stressed by France in the proposals made by M. Herriot, the French Prime Minister. It was the combination of the British and French proposals which resulted in the Protocol embodying the principles of Arbitration, Security and Disarmament. Germany's proposal touches, in a most vital way, the problem most stressed by France, viz: Security, and if a satisfactory treaty could be agreed upon, it would, no doubt, facilitate both Arbitration and Disarmament, but clearly would not meet the situation covered by the Protocol. It cannot be accepted as a substitute for the main purposes of the Protocol, though as a step toward their realization it may prove of real importance.
The principal criticism of the Protocol in Great Britain and the principal ground of objection taken by the Government of Canada is against the provisions for the imposition of economic and military sanctions although the objection of the present Government of Great Britain appears to go much beyond the sanctions provided. It may be that if a treaty guaranteeing the Western frontiers of Germany can be worked out along the line of Germany's proposals that the provision for economic and military sanctions, which France and certain of the Continental powers insisted upon so strongly, might become less important, and what, to my view, are the more important provisions of the Protocol receive further favourable consideration.
I regret that the British Empire, as a whole, did not see its way clear to go further in support of the principles of the Protocol than Mr. Chamberlain's statement indicated. But I am glad that the Government of Canada, in defining Canada's position, has not adopted a wholly negative attitude, as is indicated by the statement transmitted by the Prime Minister to the British Government and the Secretary of the League of Nations; and as announced in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister:
"That Canada should continue to give wholehearted support to the league of Nations, and particularly its work of concilliation, co-operation and publicity.
"That as Canada believes firmly in the submission of international disputes to joint inquiry or arbitration and has shared in certain notable undertakings in this field, we would be prepared to consider acceptance of this compulsory jurisdiction of the Permanent Court in justiciable disputes, with certain reservations, and to consider supplementing the provisions of the Covenant for settlement of non-justiciable issues, including methods of joint investigation, reserving ultimate decision in domestic issues and without undertaking further obligations to enforce decisions in case of other states.
"That Canada would be prepared to take part in any general conference on reduction of armaments which did not involve prior acceptance of the Protocol."
May one be permitted to suggest that possibly the most valuable single provision in the Protocol was the one which provided for the acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of International Justice in justiciable disputes. Canada has placed herself on record as being prepared to consider the acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction. (Applause) I may say that the question of whether the Court should have voluntary or compulsory jurisdiction was the subject of one of the most important discussions at the First Assembly of the League of Nations, and while the Delegates who represented the Government of Canada on that occasion all favoured compulsory jurisdiction, they supported the action finally taken, because the British Government, at that time, was not prepared to accept compulsory jurisdiction, but expressed the hope that the Court might so establish itself in public confidence that it might be possible to accept compulsory jurisdiction in the future.
I have followed the proceedings of the Court since its establishment with the greatest interest. I believe by its deliberations and decisions it has inspired public confidence both in its ability and impartiality, and I can see no good reason why the British Empire should not be prepared to join the other nations in giving the Court compulsory jurisdiction in justiciable cases.
The Government of Canada is also prepared to consider methods of supplementing the provisions of the Covenant for the settlement of non-judiciable issues reserving ultimate decision in domestic issues and without undertaking further obligations to enforce decisions in case of other states. Ultimate decision in domestic issues is already reserved by both the Covenant and the Protocol and therefore the point in which Canada's position differs from the Protocol is, primarily, on the question of economic and military sanctions.
Canada is also prepared to take part in any general conference on the reduction of armaments. This does not mean a great deal for Canada, because we have never been burdened with an excess of military armaments, but it does indicate that Canada is prepared to accept the main underlying principles of the Protocol, save that of the impositions of sanctions.
The question is bound to come up at the next Assembly of the League of Nations. At the recent Council Meeting in Geneva the further consideration of the Protocol was postponed until the next Assembly. The problem of arbitration, disarmament and security must be discussed and debated there again. It may be possible that if in the meantime a satisfactory treaty is worked out, following in some respects at least the line of Germany's proposal, the way may be made easier for the taking up and the consideration of these other important provisions of the Protocol. If, on the other hand, it is found that no satisfactory agreement can be worked out along the line of Germany's proposal, then it does appear to me that there is a moral obligation upon the British Empire, having taken the responsibility of rejecting a proposal designed to provide for the peace and security of the world, to submit to the next Assembly some alternative proposal for the attainment of some great purpose. I believe the suggestions contained in Canada's answer of (1) compulsory jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of International Justice, (2) supplementing the existing provisions of the Covenant for the settlement of non-justiciable disputes and (3) a conference on disarmament, to provide a basis for discussion which might well be presented by the British Empire at the next Assembly of the League.
Mr. Chamberlain intimated in his speech on Tuesday that it was the intention of the British Government to ask the delegates who represent the Dominions at the next Assembly of the League to meet in London prior to the meeting of the Assembly, to discuss these grave problems together, with a view to seeing if common ground could not be reached. I believe that is a very valuable suggestion. That was the course followed before the first assembly of the League and Sir George Foster, Mr. Doherty and I had the privilege of discussing the important questions that were likely to arise at the Assembly with members of the Imperial Government and with the delegates from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. That is a most valuable preparation for the work of the Assembly, and I earnestly hope if this invitation is given, as it undoubtedly will be given, that the Government of Canada and the other Dominions will accept. At this conference the suggestions Canada has put forward might be discussed and considered with a view to seeing if it is not possible for the British Empire, whose supreme interest is peace based upon justice, to present to the world a proposal which other nations could accept, that would make for peace and security and progress not only in the Empire but of all the nations of the world.