Official Statements of War Aims and Peace Proposals, December 1916 to November 1918

By James Brown Scott | Go to book overview

SPEECH OF FOREIGN MINISTER BALFOUR IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON PEACE TERMS1
August 8, 1918

It is perhaps right that the session should not conclude without some discussion not merely upon the progress of the war, such as was given by the Prime Minister yesterday in his masterly survey of the situation, but by some observations, if there are any to be made, on the subject of peace. I therefore came down to the House hoping to be illuminated upon this great theme by the wisdom of honorable gentlemen sitting on the bench opposite, who devote so much attention to the subject of negotiations with Germany. I listened with great attention to the member for Sheffield, who opened the debate. I confess I did not receive from his speech all the illumination I had hoped for. That may partly be due, indeed very likely is entirely due, to the fact that I have far passed that age after which, the honorable member explained, no statesman can be expected to understand new ideas. He adorned his speech with a large number of extracts. No extract seemed to be more worthy of attention than the one he made from the writings of Mr. Wells, who laid down the proposition to which the honorable member for Sheffield assented, that Europe was unhappily governed by old men instead of young men. I think there may be very great force in that observation. But perhaps the honorable member will forgive me for saying that, though happily for himself he has not reached the magic age of forty-five, and is still in that period of comparative youth when new ideas can be assimilated and produced, he sat down without giving us one single new idea on the subject of the European situation. I listened with the deepest attention to all he said. I recognized all the familiar commonplaces of the subject, and I think I also recognized some quotations from my own speeches, but so far as suggesting any new idea, any new method of judging the situation, any new estimate of the German war aims or of our own war aims, nothing whatever fell from the honorable gentlemen's lips that added in the smallest degree to the knowledge already possessed by the House. The honorable member who has just sat down began by giving an essay upon universal history as shown in its wars. I began to think I might be illuminated by some novel ray of light upon this dark and difficult subject. Broadly speaking he laid

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1

Text in The Times, London, August 9, 1918, p. 10.

-365-

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Official Statements of War Aims and Peace Proposals, December 1916 to November 1918
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