CHAPTER LIII
ENTER LÉON BLUM

When Sir Austen Chamberlain proposed the abandonment of sanctions, Mussolini understood that in so far as Britain was concerned he could with impunity ride rough-shod over the League; France was not likely to step into Britain's shoes, and no other Power would do so ( Cortesi, NYT. 7.v). Roosevelt also had it announced that his decisions relative to shipments of war materials would be taken "on a basis of face"; "it was considered possible that action to end the embargo might be taken soon" ( NYT. 10.v).

When Mussolini proclaimed from the balcony of Piazza Venezia the decree of the Fascist Grand Council by which Ethiopia was annexed to Italy and the King of Italy added to his title that of Emperor of Ethiopia, Sauerwein cabled from Paris to the New York Times (11.v) that "this time the pill was too difficult to swallow, and if the League did swallow it, it should inevitably go through the most alarming convulsions; and what was it going to do if it did not swallow it?" French politicians and diplomats, however—Sauerwein among them —had other more pressing worries than the League's convulsions. Now that Mussolini had succeeded in inflicting such a brutal humiliation on the League, Hitler might do as much and proclaim that Austria, Czechoslovakia, or some other republic was wiped off the map, and the only thing the League could do—and France with it— was to suffer convulsions. To crown it all, Mussolini, as Sauerwein was careful to point out, had become "the founder of a new Roman Empire".

"That old Roman Empire included among other territories Gaul, Spain, and North Africa. Where then is going to be the limit of the ambition of the new empire? If this phraseology is just an outburst of delirious enthusiasm as a result of victory, there is no reason to be alarmed. But in reading through the Italian press, one gets the firm impression that enormous schemes are taking root and, indeed, growing fast in the minds of Fascist leaders."

Even Mussolini's British friends grew apprehensive. The Morning Post (11.v) opined that it would have been perfectly easy for the Duce "to preserve the semblance of an eleventh hour respect for those solemn obligations which he had so contumeliously flouted". He might, for example, by the proclamation of a protectorate, have contrived "to reconcile the substance of control with the decencies of international intercourse". Instead, he had thrown to the winds his

-455-

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