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The Life of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles W. Dilke, Vol. 2 by Stephen Gwynn

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whole, but always the object was to aid the main aspirations of the
Trade-Union Congress; indeed, from 1901 to 1906 the luncheons were
followed by a conference of Labour and Radical members in one of the
conference-rooms, where arrangements were made to support Labour Bills
or to oppose reactionary proposals made by a reactionary Government.
This would have continued, but in 1906 the larger Labour party returned
to Parliament made it unnecessary."

The advent of the "larger Labour party," though it affected the
conferences, did not affect the social meetings, which ceased only with
Sir Charles Dilke's death. The last of these dinners was one at which
the Parliamentary Committee in their turn entertained him, paying warm
tribute to the years of help he had given to the trade-union movement.
It was in the vacation, but there was a full attendance, all the
provincial members of the Parliamentary Committee without exception
coming up or staying in London for the dinner. One of his prized
possessions in the after-months was the gold matchbox they gave him,
inscribed with the badge of the Trade-Union Congress and the word
"Labour." Round it were engraved his name and the date of the
Parliamentary Committee's presentation.]

The reformer does not generally count on the aid of representatives of
the great Government departments, yet the independent and non-party
attitude of Sir Charles and the friends who worked with him for Social
Reform secured not only the attention of successive Ministers, but also
the help of those permanent officials who finally came to do him honour
at the dinner which commemorated the passing of the Trade Boards Act in

Conspicuous among the friends who worked with him in the House of
Commons for the promotion of Social Reform in different directions were
Mr. H. J. Tennant (afterwards Secretary for Scotland in Mr. Asquith's
Coalition Government), Captain Norton (now Lord Rathcreedan), Mr.
Masterman, and Mr. J. W. Hills, member for Durham, a leader of the
Social Reform group among the Conservatives. Mr. Hills's estimate of
this side of Sir Charles's Parliamentary achievements may fitly be given

"Dilke's interest in Labour questions sprang not only from his sense
of justice and sympathy with the unfortunate, but also from his
clear and logical mind, which recognized that starvation,
underpayment, and servile conditions are the negation of that
democracy in which he believed for the United Kingdom and the
Empire. For this reason he was the admitted champion of the coloured
races; and he was the originator of a growing school of reformers of
all countries, who realize that the nations of the world must
advance together, for if one lags behind all suffer. He therefore
took a most active interest in the International Association for
Labour Legislation; he was the mainstay of the English branch, and
he kept closely in touch with men like Dr. Bauer of Switzerland, M.
Fontaine of France, and M. Vandervelde of Brussels, who were working
on the same lines in other countries. Of the earlier and more
difficult part of the work I saw nothing, for when I joined the
association it had an assured position, and had behind it two great
outstanding successes--the abolition of white phosphorus in the
making of matches, and the regulation of nightwork for women. His
knowledge of foreign countries, his familiarity with their
industrial questions and modes of thought, and his facility in their
languages, gave him, by common consent, a position such as no one
holds now. The work has been little recognized in England; our
Government, unlike foreign Governments, was slow to give help to the
association, and it was only Dilke's unbounded energy that compelled
them to support this important and hopeful movement.

"What struck me about his position in domestic Labour questions was
that his support or opposition was always the dominating fact of the
situation. What his relations were with Labour I do not know--he
never talked about it; but I have no doubt that he was their
counsellor and adviser throughout their history.

"Dilke had a deeper hold on Labour than his knowledge and ability
alone would have given him. He held their hearts and affection as
well. They looked upon him as the one man who had always stood up
for the workers, through bad and good report, whether they had votes
or had not. He had championed their cause when they were voiceless,
when it had little support in Parliament and gave little advantage
at elections. Nowadays such championship is both easy and
profitable, but that was by no means the case in the sixties and
seventies. It was exceedingly unpopular, and out of touch with the
political philosophy of all except a few. I was greatly struck with
this at the dinner given to Dilke in 1910 to celebrate the passing
of the Trade Boards Act. I realized that many had come there to do
honour to the one man who had always fought for them. They knew that
so long as he was alive there was someone who would support them,
regardless of consequences.

* * * * *

"Of his activities in Parliament, I remember most vividly those in
which I was personally concerned. In two such cases I was on the
opposite side; in two I worked with him. The Trade Disputes Act of
1906 was in reality carried by Dilke and Shackleton, for the
Government were hopelessly compromised by the two voices with which
nearly all their leaders had spoken. Again in 1907, when I was
trying to plead for Preferential Trade, he marshalled against it all
the force of his wide knowledge and ripe experience.

"On the other hand, in 1909 the luck of the ballot enabled me to
bring in a private member's Bill, and I introduced Dilke's Sweated
Industries Bill. Dilke was to second it. When the Bill came on I was
laid up with influenza, but I was determined to go to the House, and
got out of bed to do so, though when I got there I was only capable
of a few sentences and had to return to bed. But the effect of the
introduction of Dilke's Bill was to stir up the Government, so much
so that a few days later Winston Churchill introduced his Bill,
which, being a Government Bill, took precedence of ours and became
law as the Trade Boards Act. In 1910 again, on the Home Office Vote,
an occasion on which Dilke always made a masterly review of the
industrial history of the year, he asked me to second him, and to
deal particularly with lead-poisoning in the Potteries. He always
tried to detach Labour questions from party. It was entirely owing
to him that I took an interest in the subject.

"I never actually worked with him, but I should imagine that he
worked at a pace that few could follow. He was wonderful at
mastering facts, and he had the instinct of knowing what facts were
important. His method must have been somewhat unconventional, for
not only did he tear the heart out of a book, but he frequently tore
pages out as well. He had got what he wanted, and the rest was waste


The testimony of Mr. Hills has touched on several objects for which Sir
Charles worked till his death, but of these one upon which he struggled
to establish an international understanding--that of the minimum wage--
claims a fuller consideration. The interdependence of Labour was always
apparent to him, and under the sympathy for suffering which inspired his
action on such questions as the native races or the treatment of the
alien Jew, there lay the sense that the degradation of any class of
labour in one country affected its status in all, and that to be insular
on industrial questions was to undermine everything that the pioneers of
English Labour had fought for and achieved.

The wages of many workers were left untouched by the imperfect
development of trade-unionism. Sweating was the result. To check this
evil, machinery must be created by legislation to deal with low wages,
while international understanding was essential here, as in other
questions of Social Reform, to enable the democracies of the various
countries to keep abreast.

The question of the minimum wage had occupied Sir Charles Dilke's
attention from the days of his discipleship to John Stuart Mill. He had
been much impressed by the debates which took place during his
presidency in 1885 at the Conference on Industrial Remuneration. A few
years later he had been present at a meeting convened by the Women's
Trade-Union League during the Trade-Union Congress at Glasgow, and the
impression made on him by that meeting he thus described:

"I had long been used to Labour meetings, but was then brought face
to face with hopeless difficulties, heartbreaking to the organizer,
because of a rooted disbelief among the workers in the possibility
of improvement. There is a stage in which there is hope--hope for
the improvement of wages and of conditions, possibly to be won by
combined effort. There is a stage, familiar in the East End of
London, when there is no hope for anything, except, perhaps, a hired
feather and the off-chance of an outing. Yet even the roughest
trades employing women and children in factories or large workshops,
to be found in the East End or in the outskirts of Glasgow, have in
them the remote possibility of organization. Home industries in many
cases have not even that bare chance. There is in them a misery
which depresses both the workers and those who would help them. The
home life of the poorest class of factory workers is not much, but
it means, nevertheless, a great deal to them. The home life of the
home worker is often nothing. The home becomes the grinding shop.
Factory slavery finds a refuge even in a hard home. 'Home' slavery
has none.... It is in this class, utterly incapable of fixing a
minimum wage for itself, that the evil of its absence stands
revealed in its worst form."

Turning, as was his custom, to our colonies for successful experiment
and example, he discussed with Mr. Deakin (the Victorian Minister of
whom he prophesied in 1887 that he would be the First Prime Minister of
that federated Australia which was then called "Deakin's Dream") the
example of a Wages Board which was being introduced in Victoria. An
Anti-Sweating League had been formed in 1893 in Victoria, and had
adopted this scheme, carrying it into law in 1895. The vital part of the
scheme was the creation of Conciliation Boards on which representatives
of employers and employed were represented--Boards which should discuss
wages and fix a minimum rate in the trade concerned.

As opposed to any larger scheme of conciliation for all trades, this
plan had to Sir Charles's mind certain marked advantages: it would not
interfere with the activities of the great trade-unions which already
stood possessed of similar voluntary machinery, while its application
only to those whose depressed and miserable condition invoked public
sympathy would create an atmosphere likely to induce successful and
harmonious development.

In 1898 he introduced his Wages Boards Bill, from that time annually
laid before Parliament; but it made no progress, and there were moments
when even his optimism almost failed. It was not till 1906, when a
Sweated Industries Exhibition was organized by the _Daily News_, that a
step forward was made. The sight of the workers, engaged in their
ill-remunerated toil, brought home to the public an evil till then too
little realized. The movement was international. A similar exhibition in
Berlin had already been held, and others now followed in America, in
Continental countries, in Scotland, and in various parts of England. In
this country a National Anti-Sweating League came into existence. A
great meeting of trade-unionists and Labour representatives was held at
the Guildhall, Sir Charles Dilke presiding on the first day, and the
question of the minimum wage was debated by Labour; Sir George Askwith,
Mr. Sidney Webb, and Mr. W. P. Reeves, with other Colonial
representatives, speaking from the platform. Many conferences followed,
and M. Vandervelde came from Belgium, M. Arthur Fontaine from France, to
combat insular and Tariff Reform arguments, and to point out that the
movement was not confined to our own shores. A great deputation
representative of every shade of political opinion, introduced by Sir
Charles Dilke and the Archbishop of Canterbury, waited on the Prime
Minister on December 4th, 1908, and laid their views before him. Sir
Charles put the Bill into the hands of the Labour party in Parliament. A
Committee of the House was appointed to consider the question of home
work and the proposed measure, and, after the stages which Mr. Hills has
described, it became law as the Trade Boards Act in 1909. The Act at
first applied to only four trades, but there have been several
additions. Of the first extension made after Sir Charles's death, and of
the probability of the adoption of the scheme by other countries, Sir
George Askwith wrote: "It will be the first stone on Sir Charles's
cairn. I can see them all coming up the hill, nation by nation."

[Footnote: France, the first nation to reach the hill-top, passed her
Minimum Wage Act for home workers in 1915.

Minimum rates of wages under the Trade Boards Act were in operation in
Great Britain (February, 1915) as follows:

_Female Persons over 18_
_per Week of 52 Hours._
Per Hour. Per Week.

Ready-made and wholesale bespoke tailoring,
and shirt-making 3-1/2d. 15s. 2d.
Chain-making 2-3/4d. 11s. 11d.
Paper-box-making 3-1/4d. 14s. 1d.
Lace-finishing 2-3/4d. 11s. 11d.
Sugar confectionery and food-preserving 3d. 13s. 0d.
Tin-box-making 3-1/4d. 14s. 1d.
Metal hollow-ware 3d. 13s. 0d.

It is to be noted that these rates of wages, which are in every case
much higher than those they supplanted, were fixed before or in the
early part of the War, and owe nothing to the general inflation of
earnings which took place at a later stage. From the figures of the
Board of Trade Enquiry into Earnings and Hours of Labour, published in
1909, it appears that about one-third of the women employed in factories
and workshops were at the time of the Enquiry in receipt of wages of
less than 10s. per week, and the minimum rates above mentioned must be
considered in relation to these, and not to later figures.

In the various trades, shirt-making and lace-finishing excepted, minimum
rates of wages have also been fixed for adult male persons. These rates
before the War were, save in one case, 6d. per hour or upwards, and
probably one-quarter of the adult male workers in the trades benefited
by them.

The relief given by the Boards to groups of particularly ill-paid women,
such as the chain-makers, the matchbox-makers in East London, and the
lace-finishers, has been the subject of many articles in the Press.

In the chain-making trade, where the Board affected both wives and
husbands, the family income increased, in many cases, by 15s. and
upwards per week. The bearing of these higher rates of wages on the food
and clothing of those who received them, the physical condition of the
school-children, and personal and social habits, forms part of the story
which Mr. R. H. Tawney tells in _Minimum Rates in the Chain-making

On April 14th, 1910, there followed the dinner to celebrate the passing
into law of his favourite project, and at that dinner, under the
presidency of Dr. Gore, then Bishop of Birmingham, representatives of
Liberalism, Labour, and Conservatism met to do Sir Charles honour. There
were many tributes paid to one whom Mr. Will Crooks dubbed "the greatest
of anti-sweaters," and of them the happiest was, probably, that of Dr.

"Sir Charles has played a great part publicly. In finding out,
however, what has been going on behind the scenes, I am led to know
that, great as has been the public part, there is a greater part Sir
Charles has played in that region which the newspapers do not
penetrate--the region where important decisions are hatched and
matured, and differences made up, before appearances are made in
public. His zeal has been unquenchable and consistent."

After Sir Charles's death, the same friend described his knowledge as
"supreme and incomparable in all matters relating to industries and
industrial law, transcending that of any of his contemporaries."

Sir Charles Dilke's nature led him to discount personal tributes, and
his verdict on the triumph of the minimum-wage principle is best summed
up in the words of Renan which he sent to one who worked with him:
"C'est ainsi qu'il se fait que le vrai, quoique n'etant compris que d'un
tres petit nombre, surnage toujours, et finit par l'emporter."

There is no part of his work which brings out more the quality of
"self-effacement" to which Mr. Sidney Webb alludes. The cause of Labour
is not even yet a popular one, and there are many who held and hold that
his interest in it was not calculated to strengthen the political
position of one to whom men looked as a military expert, or an authority
on foreign affairs. But to him a grasp of social questions and a full
recognition of the place which Labour should hold in the modern State
were essential parts of a statesman's equipment, and appeals on the
ground of a weakening of his position by his unremitting care for Labour
interests could not have a feather's weight in the balance for one in
whom the chord of self had long since been struck and passed in music
out of sight.


Statistics by Sir Bernard Mallet, Registrar-General

In 1907 Sir Charles Dilke, who had been a member of the Royal
Statistical Society since 1866, accepted an invitation to become its
President, in which capacity he served for two years, with notable
advantage to the society. As the writer of the notice which appeared in
the journal on the occasion of his death observed:

"While Sir Charles Dilke would have declined the title of
statistician, and, indeed, frequently referred to himself as a 'mere
user' of statistics, he possessed in a high degree what may be
termed the statistical instinct. His genius for marshalling facts in
orderly sequence, his passion for precision of statement even in
minute detail, his accurate recollection of figures, as, indeed, of
everything which he stored in the chamber of his encyclopaedic
memory, are all primary attributes of the ideal statistician, though
in his case the wide range and magnitude of the subjects in which he
was interested led far beyond the field of statistical
investigation." [Footnote: _Journal of the Royal Statistical
Society_, February, 1911 p. 320]

His assumption of this office was thus specially appropriate on general
grounds; but it was connected in his mind, as he more than once
explained, with certain definite and practical objects. He had been
impressed, during his chairmanship of the Income Tax Committee, with the
inadequacy of the published statistics on finance, and he hoped to
signalize his period of office by the promotion of the better
organization of Government statistics. He chose this subject,
accordingly, for the presidential address which he delivered before the
society in December, 1907, [Footnote: Ibid., December, 1907, pp.
553-582.] and which Mr. Arthur Bowley, in his address to the society in
furtherance of the same crusade a few months later, described as a
"terrible indictment" of the existing system, or want of system. To a
large extent this address consisted of illustrations of the lack of
co-ordination in the collection and issue of these statistics, and the
difficulties which confronted the student who desired to make use of
them. But he did not confine himself to criticism. Although no definite
scheme for dealing with this large and difficult matter could be
usefully put forward without a searching official inquiry, Sir Charles
was willing to support any proposal which would assist the object in
view, from the institution of an advisory or consultative committee of
expert statisticians, to that of a central statistical bureau on the
Continental model. He induced the council to enlarge the scope of the
society's Census Committee, then sitting to advise on measures to
improve the census to be taken in 1911, so as to include official
statistics generally; and he persuaded the Select Committee of the House
of Commons on Publications to hear evidence on the subject. [Footnote:
_Journal of the Royal Statistical Society_, September, 1908, p. 459] He
secured the consideration of his suggestions in several official
quarters, and his criticisms undoubtedly led to some improvements in
detail. It would have been a miracle if Sir Charles Dilke's vigorous
campaign had attained a more obvious measure of success, and he himself
was well aware of the extreme difficulty of securing attention in this
country to a mere question of administrative reform as distinguished
from one of political or party interest--a question, moreover, which
aroused many departmental susceptibilities. But it would be a mistake to
ignore the utility of such efforts as his in stimulating interest in the
subject and assisting those whose labours have resulted in material
improvements in recent years.

Never had the society enjoyed the advantage of a President who took so
much interest in its proceedings. He regularly attended the meetings of
the committees. He was almost invariably in the chair at the society's
meetings, and rarely failed to add to the interest of the discussion by
some illuminating comment, and he was the life and soul of the dinners
of the Statistical Club which followed the meetings.

It is difficult to exaggerate the encouragement which a President of Sir
Charles Dilke's distinction can give in these various ways to workers in
the unpopular and unattractive paths of statistical science.

* * * * *


By Miss Mary Macarthur

The Taff Vale decision struck a vital blow at trade-union organization,
and while the case was still finally undecided the leaders of the
Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants called on Sir Charles for
advice. Afterwards, when the judgment was upheld, his services were
unreservedly at the command of the Parliamentary Committee of the
Trade-Union Congress.

He assisted the committee in 1901 at a conference in which Mr. Asquith,
Sir Robert Reid, and Mr. Haldane, committed the Liberal party to the
initiation of legislation to reverse the Taff Vale decision, and shortly
afterwards played a similar part in an interview with Lord James of
Hereford and the late Lord Ritchie, who spoke as representing the then
Government. The second conference was also satisfactory, since it drew
from Lord James the emphatic opinion that workmen on strike were
entitled in their own interest to use moral suasion to prevent their
places being taken by others.

The Tory party did not, however, take Lord James's view, and a
resolution proposing the restoration of the _status quo_ before the Taff
Vale judgment was defeated in the House of Commons by a majority of 29.
In May, 1903, a Bill introduced by Mr. D. J. Shackleton to legalize
picketing shared the same fate; while an even more ominous event was the
appointment by the Government of a Royal Commission on which Labour was
unrepresented, and before which the leaders of the trade-union movement
refused to appear.

Arguments in favour of compromise were put forward at the Trade-Union
Congress of 1903, which followed closely on the rejection of Mr.
Shackleton's Bill, and during the next three years the position of the
unions became continuously more precarious. It looked as though trade-
unions were beginning, in the phrase of Mr. Bell, to "exist very much on

In this crisis Sir Charles was an inexhaustible source of strength. On
everyone he could reach and influence he pressed the policy of standing
firm, and the continuing reverses of the Tory party at by-elections
played into his hands.

The Tories accepted the decision of their constituents to the extent
that Mr. Shackleton's Bill, rejected in 1903, obtained second reading by
39 votes in 1904, and by 122 in 1905. But dislike of the measure had not
abated; so many vexatious amendments were embodied in the Bill in
Committee as to render it worse than useless; and at last all but the
Tory members retired from the Grand Committee in disgust, and the Bill
was discharged from the House. But in 1906 came the General Election, by
which the Labour party found itself abruptly in the enjoyment of
prominence and power.

Faced with responsibility for legislation, the Liberal Government abated
something of their pre-election zeal, and introduced a measure which
would have given only conditional immunity to the trade-unions; but an
indignant Labour party, having secured a majority of 300 for a
thoroughgoing measure of their own, were prepared to oppose the Bill of
the Government, and this Bill was remodelled on Labour party lines.

The result was seen by everyone, but very few people understood how at
every stage the member for the Forest of Dean had intervened, using to
the utmost his powerful influence in the one camp to fix the trade-
unionists in their demand for complete reversal of the Taff Vale
judgment and the prevention of its recurrence, and in the other to bring
about an unequivocal acceptance of the demand.

[Footnote: The Trade Disputes Act, 1906, got rid of the Taff Vale
decision by Section 4. It also legalized peaceful picketing (Section 2),
and made certain acts done in furtherance of a trade dispute not
actionable on the ground merely that they interfered with business
(Section 4). Its sections dealt with the following subjects:

Section 1 amended the law of conspiracy.

Section 2 made peaceful picketing legal.

Section 3: "An act done by a person in contemplation or furtherance of a
trade dispute shall not be actionable on the ground only that it is an
interference with the trade, business, or employment, of some other
person, or with the right of some other person to dispose of his capital
or his labour as he wills."

Section 4: "An action against a trade-union, whether of workmen or
masters, or against any members or officials thereof, on behalf of
themselves and all other members of the trade-union, in respect of any
tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the
trade-union, shall not be entertained by any court."]

Nor after this major issue was settled triumphantly did his anxiety and
watchfulness abate. He scrutinized the provisions of the Bill with
jealous care. He desired to exclude every ambiguous word. "Too easily
satisfied," he scribbled to me after Labour members had neglected to
press an amendment he considered of importance, and as the Bill slowly
moved forward several such criticisms came into my hands.

His own work in Committee on the Bill is indicated by his summary of the
risks confronting those who took part in trade disputes:

1. The liability to be hit in respect of molestation.

2. Under the word "reasonable."

3. Under the Law of Nuisance.

The first danger he diminished in an amendment accepted by the
Government. The second he tried to lessen by moving the omission of the
words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner." Unsuccessfully, for his
Labour colleagues inclined to think him extreme, and intimated their
consent to retain "peaceably."

On the third question he was supported by almost half the Committee, and
only failed to carry his amendment against the Government through a
dictum of the then Attorney-General, that the Law of Nuisance could not
be invoked to stop picketing. This law has, however, since been invoked
against the pickets of the Hotel, Club, and Restaurant Workers' Union,
and under it several members of the union have been fined, and one or
two committed to gaol. The instance is a final proof, if one were
needed, of Sir Charles's prescience. The fame of Sir Charles Dilke in
the realm of industrial legislation will mount high, but to trade-
unionists nothing will endear his memory more than the knowledge that,
if and in so far as they have now a charter invulnerable alike to the
prejudice and the caprice of those who administer the law, it is largely
due to the clear vision of Sir Charles Dilke, and to the skill and
invincible courage with which he followed his aims.





Perhaps no one of Sir Charles Dilke's eager activities won for him more
public and private affection and regard than the part which he took both
in and out of Parliament as a defender of the weaker races against
European oppression.

At the very outset of his career, John Stuart Mill's admiring sympathy
for the youthful author of _Greater Britain_ was specially called forth
by chapters which made a natural appeal to the son of the historian of
British India. More than twenty years later, Sir Charles, revising his
work in the full maturity of his power and knowledge, emphasized again
the first precept of his policy, which enjoined not only justice, but

"Above all it is essential to the continuation of our rule under the
changed conditions that the individual Englishman in India should
behave towards the people as the best behave at present."

Into the question whether India would be better or worse off under some
other system he never entered; British control was accepted by him as a
fact; but, so accepting it, he insisted that justice should be done to
the Crown's Asiatic subjects.

"Men who speak better English than most Englishmen; who conduct able
newspapers in our tongue; who form the majority on town councils
which admirably supervise the affairs of great cities; who, as
Native Judges, have reached the highest judicial posts; who occupy
seats in the Provincial, the Presidency, and the Viceregal Councils,
or as powerful Ministers excellently rule vast Native States, can no
longer be treated as hopelessly inferior to ourselves in
governmental power. These men look upon the Queen's proclamations as
their charters, and point out that, while there is no legal reason
against their filling some proportion, at all events, of the highest
executive posts, there are as a fact virtually no natives high up in
the covenanted Civil Service."

Control of the military power, control of the Budget, must remain with
the governing race. But "provided war and finance are in those single
hands, autocratic or despotic if you will, which must exist for India as
a whole, in the absence of any other authority, the less we interfere in
the details of administration, to my mind, the better both for India and
for ourselves." [Footnote: _East and West_, November, 1901.]

Local self-government would give to the leading natives more opportunity
for a career, and to the governed a rule more closely in touch with
their sympathies and traditions. But there could be no general formula.
"Roughly speaking," he said, "my views are hostile to the treating of
India as a single State, and favourable to a legislative recognition of
the diversity of conditions which undoubtedly exist in India." He
contemplated administration in some parts of India by hereditary chiefs
and princes, in some cities by elective representatives of the
municipalities, in other portions of the country by a mixed system. But,
by whatever method, he was for recognizing the fact that in India we
were at many points controlling a developed though a different
civilization; that trained men were to be had in numbers; and that the
educated natives' claim for an increased and increasing part in the task
of government must be recognized.

There is a letter from him to Mr. Morley in 1897, when he thought that
freedom for the Indian Press was threatened by "blind reaction" after
the Poona murder: "The state of things in Poona has grown out of the
Committee, under the man who was stabbed but is not dead, employing
British privates (instead of employing native troops, as did General
Gatacre at Bombay) to search the houses for plague patients." The whole
position appeared to him "more dangerous than it has been at any time
since the recall of Lytton in 1880."

A policy of repression would set back the progress of liberalizing
Indian government. No one insisted more strongly on the maintenance of
sufficient force to defend the Indian Empire; but he believed that there
was a second "greatest duty" in learning "how to live with the
development of that new India which we ourselves have created."

Speaking on July 13th, 1909, when the murder of Mr. A. M. T. Jackson at
Nasik was fresh in all minds, he urged continued "measures of amnesty
and appeasement," and deprecated the policy of deporting leading members
of the National Congress. "If reform was dangerous," he said, "it was
less dangerous than leaving things alone." Describing Lord Ripon, whose
death had only just taken place, as "the Viceroy who more than any other
had touched the imagination of the people of India," he added: "If our
rule, excellent in intention, but rather wooden, is to be made
acceptable, imagination must play its part."

This lifelong advocacy of generous principles was not unrecognized. In
the last autumn of his life he was pressed in flattering terms to attend
the twenty-fifth National Congress; and for some time he entertained the
idea, which was specially urged on him by his friend and honorary agent
for the Forest of Dean, Sir William Wedderburn, who was presiding over
the Congress that year.

The project was finally set aside in view of the momentous autumn
session of 1910; but he did not feel equal to the journey. When the end
came, India mourned for him.

* * * * *


Sir Charles Dilke's concern with the vast network of problems arising
throughout Africa and the Pacific Islands from the contact of white men
with natives was infinitely detailed; yet more and more it tended to
reduce itself to one broad issue. In this relation the coloured man is
everywhere the white man's labourer; Dilke's object was to insure that
he should not be his slave. Against actual slavery he was always a
crusader, and for long years he contended against the recognition of it
implied by the practice of restoring runaway slaves in Zanzibar. Under a
Liberal Government, he carried his point at last. A letter written on
August 17th, 1907, fitly sums up this matter:

"Dear Sir Charles Dilke,

"I have just heard, on arriving here, that the announcement has been
made in the House of Commons of the intention of the Government to
abolish the legal status of slavery in Mombasa and the Coast
District on October 1st. I can hardly say how much pleasure this has
given me, nor can I refrain from writing to say how much we out here
are indebted to you for the part you have taken in bringing the
Government to this decision. I feel that without your assistance the
affair would have dragged on, possibly, for years. With many and
grateful thanks,

"Believe me, yours very sincerely,

"Alfred R. Tucker,

"_Bishop of Uganda_"

To Sir Charles men turned if protest had to be made against the illegal
flogging of natives, or against those punitive expeditions which under a
Liberal Government were often called military patrols.

As early as 1870 he had become a correspondent of the Aborigines'
Protection Society; in 1871 he supported their action in defence of the
Demerara negroes; and to the end of his life he was in constant
communication with their leading men.

His brief tenure of office gave him power to put in force principles for
which he had contended as a private member. In 1877 he wrote to Mr.
Chesson that since 1868 he had been interested to secure fair treatment
for China, [Footnote: In 1869 Sir Charles wrote letters to the _Times_
on Chinese affairs, which, says the Memoir, 'possess a certain interest
as showing that I held the same views as to China which I have always
continued to have at heart,' and which may be sufficiently illustrated
by quotation of a single phrase. He condemned "the old, bad, world-wide
party ... which never admits that weak races have rights as against the
strong."] but China's friends must bring pressure to bear to limit the
use of torture. In 1880, having become Under-Secretary for Foreign
Affairs, he was able to inform the same correspondent that he had
"succeeded in making it certain that a strong direction would be made on
the subject of Chinese torture."

Cases of gross barbarity, cases of actual slave trading, always found
him ready to act, but his great object was to check the growth of all
systems and institutions which made for industrial servitude--to his
mind a graver peril than direct slavery. Thus, in 1878 he was in
correspondence with the Aborigines' Protection Society concerning the
proposed establishment of a Chartered Company in Borneo, and observed
that such arrangements could not be justified by proving the existence
of bad government in independent Native States. "The worse the
government of these States, the greater the difficulties which crop up
when we intermeddle." In 1881 as a Minister he resisted the grant of
that charter. All these surrenders of territory and jurisdiction to
commercial associations filled him with suspicion. He knew that
expedients lay ready to the white man's hand by which the native
population could easily be enslaved; and to these even the best
representatives of direct colonial government under the Crown were prone
to resort. In 1878 he had written anxiously to Mr. Chesson concerning
the labour tax in Fiji, which, although instituted by a Governor in whom
the society had special trust, seemed "opposed to all the principles for
which you have hitherto contended." Nearly twenty years later he was
maintaining this vigilance. "I am always uneasy about Fiji," he wrote to
Mr. Fox Bourne in August, 1896. "I attacked the labour system when it
was instituted, and continue to hold the strongest opinion against it."
But by that time the new developments which he had resisted in the
seventies had spread fast and far.

"The fashion of the day," he wrote in September, 1895, "sets so strongly
towards veiled slavery that there is nothing now to be done by
deputation to Ministers. We ought to appeal to the conscience of the
electorate, and I am willing greatly to increase my little gifts to your
society if that is done."

Part of his concern was engendered by the revelation, then recent, that
the Chartered Niger Company imposed by contract a fine of L1,000 on any
agent or ex-agent of theirs who should publish any statement respecting
the company's methods, even after his employment was ended. "I am
convinced," Sir Charles wrote, "that the secrecy which it has been
attempted to maintain puts them wholly in the wrong, even if they are
angels;" and upon this ground he kept up a steady campaign against the
Niger Company by question and debate in Parliament until Government
bought the company out and assumed direct responsibility for the

South Africa was a graver centre of disquietude, for there commercial
enterprise was on a greater scale. He wrote in December, 1900, after
Great Britain had occupied the Transvaal: "My point is that the Rand
Jews have already got slavery, and our Government must repeal the laws
they have. Reading together the Pass Law and the coloured labour clause,
which you will find was the end of the latest Gold Law, we have slavery
by law."

The remedy lay, for him, in the guarantee of citizenship, at least in
some degree, to this class of labour; and with that object he put
himself at the centre of a concerted movement as soon as opportunity
offered. When, after the Boer War, the mine owners returned to the Rand,
and, pleading shortage of Kaffir labour, demanded the introduction of
indentured Chinese coolies, Sir Charles vigorously protested. The
question played a considerable part in the elections which returned the
Liberals to power with an enormous majority. It was not, however, as the
party man that Sir Charles made his protest, but as the upholder of
human rights. He feared lest "South Africa is to become the home of a
great proletariat, forbidden by law to rise above the present

When the Union of South Africa was proposed, it became manifest that
division existed as to the status of non-European citizens. In 1906,
when the Liberals came into power, immediate action was taken by a small
group of members, who addressed a letter to the Prime Minister begging
that, in view of the contemplated federation, steps should be taken to
safeguard such political rights as natives actually enjoyed in the
various colonies, and also the tribal institutions of separate native
communities. The letter advocated also an extension of Native Reserves,
and it was promptly followed (on February 28th) by a motion, brought
forward by Mr. Byles, which declared that "in any settlement of South
African affairs this House desires a recognition of Imperial
responsibility for the protection of all races excluded from equal
political rights, the safeguarding of all immigrants against servile
conditions of labour, and the guarantee to the native populations of at
least their existing status, with the unbroken possession of their
liberties in Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and other tribal countries and

Sir Charles himself took no part in the debate; but he notes: 'I am
proud to have planned this letter and drawn the motion for Byles so that
it was carried unanimously by the House.' A resolution much stronger in
terms could easily have been carried in that Parliament; but it would
not have been unanimous, and it could hardly have been enforced later
on. Here a principle was so firmly laid down that the House could not
recede from it; and the importance of the step soon became apparent.
When the Bill for the South African Union came before Parliament in
1909, Colonel Seely, who had been one of the signatories to the letter
of 1906, represented the Colonial Office in the Commons; and Sir
Charles, warned by friends of the natives in South Africa, questioned
him as to whether the Bill as drafted empowered the self-governing
colonies to alter the existing boundaries of the Protectorates. He
received a private promise that the matter should be put beyond doubt;
and this was done in the Committee stage by a solemn declaration that
the Imperial Government absolutely reserved its right of veto upon the
alienation of native lands. As soon as the text of the proposed
Constitution became known, he raised his protest against what he
considered a permanent disfranchisement of labour; for labour in South
Africa, he held, must for all time be coloured labour. Six weeks later,
when the Bill was brought to Westminster, Mr. W. P. Schreiner, who came
specially to plead the rights of the civilized men of colour, was in
constant intercourse with Sir Charles, and scores of letters on detailed
proposals for amendment attest the thoroughness of that co-operation.
Dilke, with the support of some Labour men and Radicals, fought
strenuously against the clauses which recognized a colour-bar, and in
the opinion of some at least in South Africa, the essence of the
position was secured.

[Footnote: Mr. Drew, editor of the _Transvaal Leader_, wrote:

"I am truly glad that (if my view of the somewhat vague cablegram is
correct) you have alienation of native lands reserved everywhere in
South Africa. This provision, together with the entrenchment of the
Cape Franchise, will form a solution of the question not
unfavourable to the natives. It gives the natives and their friends
something to bargain with. If the Cape Franchise should ever go, its
place will be taken by something which will benefit all the natives
and be acceptable to all."

From a different quarter came even stronger expression of gratitude.
M. Jacottet, of the Swiss Mission, wrote:

"I beg on behalf of all my fellow-missionaries in Basutoland, as
well as of all the friends of justice and liberty in this territory,
to thank you most sincerely for your courageous and strong advocacy
of the rights and interests of Basutoland and the other territories.
All thoughtful and civilized Basutos know how much they are indebted
to you, and your name is held in reverence by them."]

Sir Charles, always a strong advocate of colonial autonomy, nevertheless
did not go to extreme lengths in this doctrine. An Imperialist first, he
was fully prepared to say to the colonies, So long as you claim Imperial
protection, you must recognize the full rights of citizenship within the
Empire. He feared gravely the tendencies which might develop under the
British flag, if uncontrolled liberty of action were given to the
Colonial Parliaments in dealing with such questions as forced labour.
"The Australian rule in New Guinea is going to be terrible," is a stray
note on one of his communications with the Aborigines' Protection

This labour question was to him essentially the problem of the future,
and he watched its developments with ceaseless anxiety. At the annual
meeting of the society in April, 1910, he spoke of the energy which the
Colonial Office displayed in promoting the growing of cotton as laudable
but dangerous. "The chiefs had sometimes exercised compulsion to make
their tribes cultivate the unfamiliar product." More generally he felt
that wherever the white man introduced taxation there would be a
tendency to requisition labour, and that all such projects would
inevitably generate an interested commercial support. The Portuguese
system of recruiting for the cocoa plantations might be barbarous; but
if it were pleaded in defence that without it the supply of cocoa must
fail, Sir Charles foresaw the gravest difficulties with the House of
Commons. "How are we to make that 'would-be' practical Assembly tell the
Government to induce Portugal to put an end to so enormous a
cultivation?" The only method of avoiding these evils was to prevent
their growth; and the soundest plan was to insure that the natives
retained their own familiar means of livelihood, and so could not be
brought down to the choice between starvation and selling their labour
in a restricted market. For that reason he fiercely opposed the whole
policy of concessions, and by public and private representations he
pressed the Colonial Office to reject every such alienation of native
rights in the land.

He had promised to read a paper on Indentured and Forced Labour at the
Native Races Conference held in July, 1911. It reviewed all the facts of
the situation as they existed--the growing demand for indentured
service, the respective record of the European Powers, and the varying
results produced by varying methods which the same Power has adopted in
different regions. It was, he thought, not easy to decide whether the
anti-slavery cause had lost or gained ground in his lifetime; new
insidious and widespread forms of the evil had taken a hold. Great
Britain's escutcheon was marred by the inclusion of a colour-bar in the
most recent Constitution of her oversea dominions; and the Government of
India had recently failed to obtain from some British States that
measure of rights for emigrating British Indian subjects which it had
formerly been able to secure. Forced labour was being employed under
British auspices in Egypt; while the French, who had "more nearly than
any other nation" done away with this evil in colonies, were open to
grave reproach in the matter of concessions--especially in that region
where French administration was affected by the neighbouring example of
the Congo Free State. The danger both of forced labour and of
concessions was that they alike tended to destroy native law and tribal
custom, and so to create 'one universal black proletariat'--a vast
reservoir of cheap defenceless labour.

What he wrote was duly read at the Conference, and is included in the
volume of their proceedings called _Inter-Racial Problems_. But before
the Conference took place, silence had been imposed for ever on this
advocate of equal justice. Among his papers is the manuscript of this
composition corrected for the press by him within a week of his death--
work done against the entreaty of those who cared for him, but work that
he would not leave undone.

In defending the interest of the native races, Dilke always felt himself
to be defending the dignity and the safety of labour at home--even
though the representatives of European labour did not recognize the
common concern. He was defending labour where it was weakest; and it is
in his championship of the weak that one of the younger men who worked
with him and learnt from him sees the characteristic note of his life.
General Seely writes:

"To many of the younger men who found themselves in the Parliament
of 1900 Dilke was an enigma. We could all appreciate his immense
store of knowledge, his untiring industry, his courtesy to younger
men, and his striking personality. But what the real purpose was to
which he was devoting these talents, what was the end in view--put
shortly, 'what he was at'--was to us a puzzle.

"Clearly, it was no bitter hostility either to a Government with
which as a Radical he profoundly disagreed, or to an Opposition
amongst whom he sat, but whose chiefs had not restored him to their
inner councils. Not the former, for in matters of foreign policy and
in Imperial Defence, where his unrivalled knowledge gave him
powerful weapons of attack, he never pursued an advantage he had
gained beyond very moderate limits. Not the second, for no man was
more steadfast in his attendance and in his support, given by speech
and in the lobby, to those of his own political faith.

"Still less was it personal ambition or self-seeking; for if he
spoke often, it was only to put forward some definite point of view,
and not for the purpose of taking part in a debate just because the
House was crowded and the occasion important.

"Least of all was his constant attendance in the House of Commons
the refuge of a man with no other object in life, for no man was
more many-sided or had so many and such varied interests.

"His Parliamentary action was often baffling to the observer,
especially in its restraint. It was only after many years that the
present writer found the master-key to Dilke's actions, and it was
revealed in a flash at the time of the passing of the South Africa
Union Act. The question was the representation of the native
population in the Union, and the cognate questions of their
treatment and status. Dilke came to see me. He pleaded the native
cause with earnestness, with eloquence, with passion. The man was
transfigured as the emotions of pity and love of justice swept over
him. No record could be kept of what he said; there could have been
no thought of using his eloquence to enlist popular support or
improve a Parliamentary position, for we were alone. And so I came
to see that the mainspring of all his actions was the intense desire
to help those who could not help themselves--to defend the

"Looking through the long list of the speeches he made, and of the
questions he asked, from the beginning of the Parliament of 1900
until the time of his death, one sees plainly that this was his
guiding motive. No detail was so small as to escape his attention if
the people he was endeavouring to protect were poor and helpless.

"On the wider questions of the general treatment of natives he
displayed the same meticulous care in finding out the true facts of
the case. In the controversy that raged round the administration of
the Congo, he would not move until he had ascertained the facts, not
only from official documents, but from inquiries he himself had set
on foot. Indians, Africans, Chinese, as well as his own countrymen
and countrywomen, all would find in him a champion and defender,
provided only that they were poor, unrepresented, or oppressed."


In some cases the defence of the "under-dog" was a duty imposed by our
acknowledged sovereignty or by international obligations.

What might follow from the growing rush for tropical products, capital
pursuing large returns "into every jungle in the world," was shown to
Europe, in the last months of Sir Charles's life, by the revelations
from the Amazon Valley, a scandal to which he was among the first to
call attention. This was a region where Great Britain had no special
duty. But a series of facts not less horrible, on a scale infinitely
vaster, and affecting a population which, originally, could not have
numbered less than thirty millions, had, long before the Putumayo
revelations, been proved to exist throughout the basin of a great
African river. No labour of Sir Charles's later years was more
continuous and persistent than his effort to fix on the Imperial
Parliament the responsibility for what was done in the Congo Free State,
and the duty of putting an end to it.

"He perceived with increasing clearness of vision, as the years went
on," says Mr. Morel, "that the future relationship between the white
and coloured races in the tropical regions of the globe was bound up
with the problem of the Congo, and that the effects of the success
or the failure of the movement for Congo reform would govern in
great measure the attitude of Europe towards these questions for
very many years."

A State that had been brought into being by England's express sanction,
for solemnly defined purposes of civilization in Africa, was proved by
its own agent to be employing cannibal troops. That was the circumstance
which most impressed a startled House of Commons when, on April 2nd,
1897, Sir Charles raised the first of many discussions upon the question
of the Congo.

In 1896 a violent action had brought home to England what had been the
fulfilment of the promised free trade for all nations, and of King
Leopold's protestations in 1884. Mr. Stokes, a British trader, was
arrested and shot by the order of a Belgian officer, Major Lothaire. His
offence was trading in ivory. Sir Charles, when he raised the debate in
April, 1897, combined then as always the diplomatic with the
humanitarian aspect of the case; and brought before the House the
existence of the secret decree of September, 1891, declaring a State
monopoly of all rubber and ivory, for violation of which Mr. Stokes had
been executed. [Footnote: Stokes was also accused of bartering guns to
the Arabs for that ivory. This, true or not, does not affect the initial
outrage, that, though he was entitled to a proper trial, he was trapped
and summarily executed without trial of any kind.] But it was the
publication of Captain Hinde's book, [Footnote: _The Fall of the Congo
Arabs_.] with its revelation of the fact that European officers had
commanded an army fed for long periods by organized cannibalism, which
gave authority to Sir Charles's demand for a new conference of the
Powers. "We should take action," he said, "to remove from ourselves the
disgrace which had fallen upon our declarations."

Mr. Curzon, who as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs then spoke for
Lord Salisbury's Government, treated the matter coolly enough, though
admitting that the agents of the Congo State had sometimes adopted
methods repugnant to Christian feeling; and so for the moment the
controversy ended, but Sir Charles with persistent application returned
to the question again and again, although his efforts were hampered by
lack of information. So well was the secret of those dark places kept
that even he, with his widespread net of acquaintance in many capitals,
found facts hard to gather; and he was naturally attracted by the
appearance in 1900 of a series of anonymous articles in the _Speaker_,
which dealt with the system set up in the Congo, and its inevitable
results. These articles displayed an unusual knowledge of the whole
complicated subject, and revealed aspects of it which had previously
baffled inquiry. The writer proved to be Mr. E. D. Morel. So began a
co-operation whose influence upon the administration of African races
was destined to be far-reaching.

The campaign was steadily pressed. Within the House of Commons, Sir
Charles spoke session after session, using language of a vehemence that
startled in one so moderate. He organized representations to the Senate
and Chamber in Belgium, summarizing what was being done in the Congo and
urging Belgium's moral responsibility. Out of doors, the Press campaign
was vigorous--so vigorous that no Government could disregard it; and at
the beginning of 1903, in reply to a question from Sir Charles, Mr.
Balfour promised a formal debate "on the position of the signatories to
the Berlin General Act of 1885, in regard to the abuses which had grown
up under the Congo Free State's rule in violation of that Act." The
debate, on May 20th, 1903, was opened by Mr. Herbert Samuel. Sir
Charles, following him, was in turn supported by Sir John Gorst, an old
ally in such causes. Mr. Balfour, in face of a unanimous House,
accepted, not without reluctance, the motion which asked him to consult
the co-signatories of the Berlin Act, and thus committed Great Britain
to a diplomatic re-opening of the case. Inquiry necessarily followed,
and with the publication of our Consul's report in December, 1903, the
affair reached a new phase.

When the Foreign Office vote came to be discussed in the Session of
1904, Sir Charles, basing himself on that report, delivered what Sir
John Gorst called a "terrible speech." Replying for the Government, Lord
Percy used these words: "There never has been a policy of which it might
be said as truly as of this one that it was the policy not so much of
His Majesty's Government as of the House of Commons." Not less is it
true that Sir Charles had guided the House to the adoption of that

By this time the cause commanded popular interest. The questioning of
Ministers was frequent, and it was done by men from all camps. Sir
Charles could afford henceforward to select his portion of the work. He
limited himself as far as possible to the diplomatic aspect of the case,
more technical and less popular in its appeal, but giving the surest
right of intervention.

The Foreign Office does not naturally look with favour upon policies
forced upon it by the House of Commons, and perhaps for this reason the
permanent officials proved opponents very difficult for the House of
Commons to control. But Sir Charles's knowledge gave him the necessary
advantage. For instance, on November 22nd, 1906, he asked if the United
States had not expressed a desire to co-operate with Great Britain in
this matter. An official denial was given. On December 16th the question
was put again, and the admission made that "the United States have
recently expressed" such a desire.

After various obscure negotiations on the part of King Leopold to secure
German support for his personal rule, there came at length with the
beginning of 1907 the announcement that Belgium would annex the Free

[Footnote: The delay which took place in the transference of the Congo
Free State from the personal rule of King Leopold to the rule of the
Belgian Government is dealt with in the following letter from Lord
Fitzmaurice from the Foreign Office to Sir Charles:

"_February_ 16th, 1906.--The King of the Belgians puts about these
stories for the same sort of reason which made the German Emperor put
about the story that there was a change of policy in regard to France.
At the same time there must be a little 'law' given to the King while
his second Commission is reporting on the methods of carrying out the
reforms indicated in the first Commission's report. As you know, I am
not a believer in the King 'at all, at all,' but one has to observe the
forms of diplomacy. It is, perhaps, not unfortunate that this pause
coincides with a moment when it is not our interest to be having a row
with Belgium also, if perchance we were having a row with Germany." This
letter was written while the Algeciras Conference was sitting.]

Yet the matter was not allowed to sleep in either House of Parliament;
it was raised by Sir Charles on the Whitsuntide adjournment, and again
in August. In 1908 the subject was mentioned in the King's Speech. But
by this time a "Colonial Law" had been proposed in Belgium, which went
far to re-establish King Leopold's power under the new system and
created new difficulties. Sir Charles's allies now were not in England
only. He had made friends with M. Vandervelde, leader of the Socialist
party in Belgium, and the one Socialist who had ventured to vote for
annexation. They met during Sir Charles's Christmas stay in Paris in
1907, and had "two days' thorough discussion of Congo." The result was
written to Lord Fitzmaurice (then Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs)
on January 6th, 1908: "I tell you confidentially that, after seeing
Vandervelde, I cease to advise moderation, and shall say so to the
private Congo Reform meeting called for the 21st." This tone made itself
felt in the debate on the Address, and in two subsequent discussions.
The points pressed for were, first, that Belgium in taking over the
Congo should take over fully and honor the Free State's treaty
obligations, and, secondly, that full guarantees should be given for
native rights. [Footnote: On Sir Charles Dilke's action in regard to the
Congo, see also _Red Rubber_ (T. Fisher Unwin), pp. 4, 11, 177, 195; and
_Great Britain and the Congo_ (Smith, Elder and Co.), pp. 122, 124, 138,
142, 193, by Mr. E. D. Morel. The official organs of the Congo Reform
Association from 1904 until Sir Charles's death contain a complete
record of his speeches, both in the House and outside, during this

But discussion in the Belgian Parliament showed reluctance to accept
this view, and on November 4th, 1908, a strong memorandum was despatched
by Great Britain. When Parliament reassembled in 1909, a question put by
Sir Charles elicited the fact that no answer had been returned to this
despatch, and an amendment to the Address was put down by a Unionist,
Sir Gilbert Parker. Sir Charles, in supporting it, laid special stress
on backing from America, being well aware that relations were strained
in Europe.

His speech indicated some fear that the question might be submitted to
the Hague Conference.

"That," he said, "is not our intention. That is not what Parliament
meant. That is not the policy which successive Governments have given
their adhesion to. In a state of Europe far more disturbed, even Lord
Castlereagh several times took in similar matters far stronger action
than is now necessary."

But the Parliament elected in 1906 did not see the end of this affair;
and when they next met in February, 1910, King Leopold had died, and
there was a new King of the Belgians. On March 10th, Sir George White
moved upon the matter, pointing out that there was no improvement in the
treatment of the natives and no extension of freedom for trade; and the
Foreign Secretary replied in a somewhat ambiguous speech. Annexation, he
said, had not yet received the sanction of Great Britain, and could not
until improvement in the administration had taken place. But beyond this
negative attitude of disapproval, Sir Edward Grey seemed to think that
Great Britain could not wisely act alone, and that under the Berlin Act
isolated action was in some measure barred. This, in the temper of the
moment, was construed as a hint that insistence on reform might drive
Belgium into the arms of Germany. Sir Charles said in this debate:

"There is one case, and one only, where I think we see very distinct
signs of weakening in our policy, a weakening caused by terror, and
undue terror, of the risks which may follow. The papers issued by
the Belgian Government with regard to the Congo show a distinct
weakening of attitude on our part.... In the Belgian despatch they
treat us with contempt, with a sort of lofty scorn which is almost
inconceivable. I have never known such a thing before; it is an
entirely new departure.

"I believe the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has been here
to-day, knowing that many members in all quarters of the House have
incurred a certain disappointment, which is reflected in the letter
in to-day's papers from the Archbishop of Canterbury, with regard to
the speech with which he wound up the other night the short debate
upon the Congo question.... He says that we have not weakened our
position, that we have given nothing away, that we have not
'recognized.' But it is not a mere paper recognition or a paper
non-recognition to which we attach high importance and which we
formerly thought we understood from his speeches.... We have before
us a Bill for the largest naval expenditure that our country has
ever incurred in time of peace. We add for the first time to that
expenditure colonial expenditure which swells out beyond that of our
own Estimates. The House has supported those Estimates, and the
Empire is spending on land forces even a larger amount than it is
spending on the fleet. None of us believe that war is probable, but
we do think, and many of us in this House believe, that the
armaments of this country, if they are to have weight in time of
peace, ought to have weight behind our diplomacy; and if they are to
be justified by many of the arguments put before this House, there
is no reason why at this moment we should be afraid of our own
shadow. We have been afraid of our own shadow on the Congo question.
I think there can be no doubt that we have received from M. Renkin,
the Colonial Minister, such treatment as we have never had to put up
with from any Power, at all events in recent years." Dilke warned
members not to be silenced by unnecessary fears on these matters.
"Not even a single question was asked in the far more dangerous case
of the ultimatum which we now know was sent to the Turkish
Government when they came into office in the beginning of 1906, in
regard to the occupation of the village of Tabah. That ultimatum
might have raised serious questions in that part of Europe. I think
a little more courage would be desirable in a case like that of the
Congo. It is not a question of ten pounds or one hundred pounds of
somebody's property. We are shocked in the case of the Congo because
that which would never happen is put as a conceivable danger at the
end of a long train of hypothetical events. It is said that there
might be an act of violence.... There would not be an act of
violence, and I beg the House not to be led away by the fear of
trifling complications following upon our insisting, not upon
anything new, but upon that which we have been insisting upon for
years past in a matter in which our moral obligation is very

Yet it was not Sir Charles's fortune to see the fulfilment of the long
labour in which he had played so great a part. Not till three years
later--in June, 19l3--did the Congo Reform Association feel that its
work was completed, and that it could disband its forces.

Sir Charles's part had been to apply in Parliament the force that was
generated outside. From a private position to have guided without
seeming to dictate; to have inspired common action among colleagues
holding all shades of political thought; to have avoided miscarriage by
infinite tact and patience; to have possessed so wide a knowledge of all
the complicated issues involved that official reluctance could never
avoid action by mysterious pretexts; to have been always so moderate in
expression that strong condemnation from him, when it came, was indeed
weighty; to have watched time and opportunity, the dispositions of men,
the temper of the assembly--all this was necessary to carry through such
a Parliamentary task without the power of office, and all this Sir
Charles performed. No finer example has been given of what in the
Imperial Parliament a member of Parliament can do; and Sir Charles Dilke
could well afford to be judged by it, and it alone, as typical of his



[Footnote: This and the two following chapters are by Mr. Spenser

In October, 1885, in the course of a speech delivered to his
constituents, Dilke expressed his opinion on the subject of the reform
of the army, then generally regarded as desirable, but also as so
extremely difficult that the old Parliamentary hands shrank from
grappling with it. "Everybody was agreed," he said, "upon this point,
that we ought to have a strong navy, but there was more difference of
opinion as to the army." Speaking personally, and without any authority
from others, he felt desirous of throwing out a suggestion whether it
would not be possible to have a separate army for India and the
colonies, the army being treated as any other trade, and the men being
permitted to withdraw when they pleased, with safeguards against the
country being involved in loss when men came home prematurely. It would
be necessary, of course, to have special training for cavalry,
engineers, and artillery, as well as officers and non-commissioned
officers; but he believed that for the great mass of the infantry, apart
from the Indian and colonial army, we might safely rely upon the
volunteers, and encourage volunteering by special advantages.

The suggestion thus modestly thrown out in 1885 proved to be the prelude
of the effort of Dilke's later life--to prepare the country and the
Empire for the times of storm and stress that were to come. His travels
as a young man had given him an unrivalled acquaintance with the chief
countries of the world, and especially with those which constitute the
British Empire. In the spring of 1887, in his articles on "The Present
Position of European Politics," as already seen, he passed in review the
aims of the several Powers of Europe, and the military means which were
available for their furtherance. His conclusion, expressed in the first
sentence of the first article, was that "the present position of the
European world is one in which sheer force holds a larger place than it
has held in modern times since the fall of Napoleon." In this condition
of Europe, the phenomenon that most impressed him was that "England is
of all Powers the most unprepared for war." That being the case, it
seemed to him to be the first duty of a British Government to set in
order the nation's defences. The next five years he devoted chiefly to
an effort to master the subject, to which he gave the name of Imperial

The spirit and method of Dilke's work on the subject of preparation for
war mark him off from all his Parliamentary contemporaries into a class
by himself. He took the subject of war seriously. He would not speak of
it without knowledge, and, as he had not had the professional education
of a naval or military officer, he associated himself as closely as
possible in this part of his work with those who appeared to him the
most completely to command the subject. His own words were: "Writing on
the British Army as a civilian, I am only accepting an invitation which
soldiers have often given to their fellow-countrymen. At the same time I
have not the presumption to write without military help." [Footnote:
_The British Army_, p. 1.]

He diligently studied the military literature of the day, English and
foreign, treating of the questions he was considering, and collected a
great number of official reports and other documents which he digested.
At the same time he entered into correspondence with the best soldiers,
in order to learn and appreciate their views. Prominent among these was
Sir Frederick Roberts, then Commander-in-Chief in India, with whom
during the whole period he was in constant communication. He also sought
the collaboration of some congenial student of the problems of war,
organization, and national defence, in order to insure the thorough
discussion of all points, and to guard himself against the temptation to
attach too much importance to his own impressions. He wished to acquaint
himself with, and to reproduce in his writings, the best that was known
and thought in the military world. In 1887, while writing his articles
on European Politics, he frequently consulted in this way Colonel
Charles Brackenbury, R.A., one of the most accomplished officers of the
progressive school, a master of his profession and a clear exponent of
its principles.

In this spirit and in these conditions was written the sixth article of
the series on European Politics, published in June, 1887, and entitled
"The United Kingdom." It was an account of the country's military
weakness and a plea for a much-needed improvement of the army. "We spend
more upon war services than does any other empire in the world.... It is
believed abroad, and I fear with reason, that even within the last two
years our stock of rifles was so small that there were only enough guns
in store to arm the first-class army reserve, so that, in fact, there
was from the military point of view no reserve of rifles, and that our
ammunition stood at about a similar point of exhaustion.... The most
capable men of the army tell us very frankly that they are almost in
despair at its condition."

Assuming for the moment that all idea were given up of fulfilling the
nation's treaty obligations for the defence of Turkey and of Belgium,
and that no more were aimed at than the defence of India, of England,
and of the colonies, "even upon this reduced estimate of our
responsibilities, in the opinion of all competent men, we fall short of
power to accomplish our task." In view of this state of things Dilke
suggested methods of increasing the strength of the nation, and of
obtaining value for the money spent. In the first place, "it is
necessary for the statesmen, or if the statesmen will not, then for the
public, to lay down for the soldiers a basis of military policy."

"It certainly seems clear, even to those who are not great
scientific soldiers, that there is sufficient risk of invasion to
make it essential to our position that we should have plenty of
cavalry and artillery, plenty of officers, plenty of guns,
ammunition, and other stores, always in readiness to supplement the
large force of infantry which is provided for us by the militia and
volunteers.... The things we need to keep in hand are the things
which cannot be suddenly improvised--cavalry, artillery, transport,
officers, and stores. We can, whatever some soldiers may say, make
effective infantry of our volunteers in a short space of time."

"What we have to look to are, mainly, the defence of India, the
defence of England, and the supply of a possible expeditionary
force. For the defence of India we need, according to an opinion
which I expressed at the date of the first introduction of short
service, a long-service army." Dilke quoted Major Buxton's words:
"For home service and European warfare we need a reserve, and
therefore a short-service army. What difficulties do not hamper us
in striving to reconcile short service with foreign service! Divide
the two services and all becomes simple. The foreign service army
... requires yearly fewer recruits, becomes acclimatized, and has
fewer green young men in its ranks; it is never relieved home,
though it moves about abroad. The question of home and foreign
reliefs is closed for ever. Recruits go out, and time-expired men
come home; that is all." "On the other hand, for the home army,"
Dilke wrote, "I would rely very largely upon the militia or
volunteers, and for the infantry privates of the expeditionary army,
upon special volunteers from the militia or volunteers.... I am
convinced that the time required, provided that your officers and
non-commissioned officers are well trained, to make an infantry
private is not very great."

"Instead of trying to imitate at one time the Prussians, and at
another the French, we ought, in my belief, to strike out a
thoroughly national system for ourselves"--the direction to be taken
being that of "giving high efficiency to the elements which cannot
be rapidly created in the home army, and the loyal adoption for the
infantry of the principle of localization and of union with the
militia and volunteers."

In the autumn and winter, with Brackenbury's collaboration, which was
not disclosed, as Brackenbury was an officer on the active list, Dilke
wrote for the _Fortnightly Review_ a second series of articles,
entitled, like the volume in which they were afterwards collected, _The
British Army_. The first article appeared in November. After its
publication, Lord Wolseley wrote: "I have at this moment finished what I
may be allowed to call your very interesting military article in the
_Fortnightly Review_. I trust it may be read by every voter, and may
turn public opinion to the shortcomings of our army and of our military
establishments." Dilke thereupon wrote to ask Wolseley for some account,
of which public use might be made, of his views upon the condition of
the army and of the necessary reforms. Wolseley replied at some length,
and said: "I should not like any quotation made from this very hurriedly
written letter, but if you care to do so you may say in any of your
articles that I entertain these views and opinions." Wolseley's views
were given, accordingly, in the third article, in a paraphrase of his

A more complete exposition of England's unreadiness for war has never
been written than was contained in _The British Army_. It revealed the
neglect of successive Governments to ascertain and determine the
purposes for which in war the army would be employed, and the standards,
quantitative and qualitative, of the military forces which ought to be
kept ready. It showed the evils of excessive centralization. For an
expenditure as great as that of a Continental military Power the War
Office maintained a regular army, as to which it was doubtful whether it
could mobilize, in a condition to take the field, a single army corps.
The militia was imperfectly officered. The volunteer force was of
unequal quality, and the mass of its officers inadequately trained for
war. It was without field artillery, and the guns with which in case of
war it ought to be accompanied did not exist. The regular army at home
was sacrificed to the necessity of furnishing reliefs to the army in
India, which, however, was not in a condition to defend that country
against serious attack.

The system on which Continental armies were raised, organized, and
trained, was explained, and proposals were made for reform of the
British system. The suggestion was repeated that the British army in
India should be rendered independent of the military administration at
home, and the home army be relieved of the burden of supplying reliefs
to India. This would render possible the introduction of true short
service at home, and the enlistment for the Indian army of men willing
to serve for comparatively long periods as professional soldiers. It was
maintained that for national defence it would be found necessary to rely
mainly upon the volunteers, and that therefore they should be given a
place in the system corresponding to the call which would have to be
made upon them in case of war. In the regular army those elements should
be specially maintained which least admit of rapid training--cavalry,
field and horse artillery--and a General Staff of an English type ought
to be developed.

The cogency of Sir Charles Dilke's appeal to his countrymen to attend to
the subject of defence, the weight of authority behind his exposition of
the failure of the military administration, and the appropriateness of
the reforms which he suggested, will be better conveyed by the quotation
of a few passages than by a summary:

"The reign of force of which I have often spoken is so marked at present
that no Power can consider itself safe unless it is ready at any time to
defend its interests." "Humanly speaking, we can trust for our
protection in the last resort only to our strong right arm." "Time is
slipping by, and the unreadiness of England is a danger to the peace of
the world." "It is time that party politics should be put aside on
questions relating to the national defence." He pointed out how
dangerous was the influence of those "who may almost be said to oppose
all military expenditure, and yet whose ability and honesty gave them a
deserved influence with the electors." "It was impossible to adopt a
policy of disarmament without grave danger for the future;" but if it
was to be prevented, "the people have to be shown that large
expenditure, not only upon naval but also upon military purposes, is a
necessity of the time." He deprecated "the unwisdom of those who,
thinking our present position unsatisfactory, and more or less agreeing
about the main lines of the remedies to be applied, fight among
themselves.... The points which have a real importance are not those on
which we differ, but those upon which we are agreed."

The first question that he wished to have cleared up was what the
country would fight for. He pointed out that England was bound by treaty
to support the defence of Turkey against Russia, though he doubted
whether English opinion would support that policy, and to defend the
neutrality of Belgium, as to which he thought the attitude of
Governments had been ambiguous. He would himself approve of fulfilling
our treaty obligations as regards that country, but he said: "If indeed
we are to defend the neutrality of Belgium, we may at any time find
ourselves involved in a Continental war against Germany, with France and
Belgium for our Allies." He was prepared to accept as a minimum basis
for preparation the assumption "that we ought to defend the
coaling-stations, to be in a position to defend ourselves in India and
at home, and to send, if need were, two army corps abroad as an
expeditionary force."

One great difficulty of proving a case against the sufficiency and
efficiency of the army lay in the fact "that, while soldiers are very
willing to communicate information in their possession as to our present
weakness, to those who, they think may help in any degree to set things
straight, they not unnaturally shrink from the publication of their
names." Yet Dilke was able to express the views of Sir Frederick
Roberts, communicated to him very fully, and more briefly those of Lord
Wolseley. He was also able to quote Wolseley's statement to a Royal
Commission, that "if a hostile force of, say, 100,000 men were to land
upon our shores, there is no reason whatever, if that 100,000 were
properly led, why they should not take possession of London.... We are
not in the position we ought to be in, nor do I believe we are in the
position we should be in if the English people were told the whole

"The inefficiency of our present organization, and its wastefulness,
are admitted by persons who differ as greatly the one from the other
as, on the one hand, the chief of the 'Economists,' Lord Randolph
Churchill, and, on the other, the soldiers who are the object of his
scorn--Lord Wolseley, Sir Frederick Roberts, and General
Brackenbury. [Footnote: General Sir Henry Brackenbury, brother of
Colonel Charles Brackenbury.] Our present position is, therefore,
condemned all round, and the day has come when it behoves every
Englishman to have an opinion as to the direction in which the
remedy is to be sought."

"To form armies which will be of any value against the power of
'armed nations,' it is necessary to provide modern weapons, and here
again we are weak just where we should be strong.... It is one of
the most astonishing features of our 'system' that, with all our
enormous expenditure, we manage to drop behind other nations both in
the quality of our weapons and the proportional number of them to
the hands that would have to use them. The reason probably is that
the country has gradually arrived at the absurd belief that Great
Britain alone of all nations in the world can by prudence escape the
common lot, and never have war again except with savages. From this
unfounded and unwise opinion springs grave carelessness as to the
condition of the military forces, and Governments desirous of
presenting a comparatively small Budget fail to keep up the
necessary quantity of arms and stores, because deficiency in these
is a weakness easy to conceal.... Thus we, who should always be in a
state of readiness to supply arms to improvised forces, and to
colonial levies, have never enough for the purposes of the home
army. We are always compromising between the popularity of a
Government and the safety of the Empire."

It will be shown later on how Dilke, when the time came, upheld this
opinion by his vote in Parliament, even against his own party and to the
sacrifice of his own political interests.

"For an expenditure of nineteen millions the Germans can put into
the field nineteen army corps of 37,000 men each, besides an
enormous force of garrison troops and a territorial army, of which
they could rapidly make a field army of thirty-five army corps in
all. For an expenditure of twice nineteen millions we can put into
the field in India two army corps, of which one is composed of
native troops, but in the United Kingdom, in General Brackenbury's
words, owing to our defective organization, we should scarcely be
able to put one; but if the army were properly organized we should
be able to put two into the field."

Yet it could not be said that the British army fell short in numbers:

"The army proper, the militia, the army reserve and militia reserve,
the volunteers, the native troops in India, the 36,000 Canadian
militia of the first line, about 16,000 men in Australia and New
Zealand, the South African local forces of between six and seven
thousand well-trained men, the Irish constabulary, the armed and
drilled portion of the Indian constabulary, the Hyderabad
contingent, and the marines, easily make up a total of a million of
men fit for some kind of land service, of whom very nearly the whole
are supposed to serve even in time of peace."

"We are more saving of peace taxes than of war debt.... If the
arrangement for strict saving in time of peace and for wild waste in
time of war was ever a wise one, which in my opinion it was not,
even in the days of old-fashioned armies, it is certainly foolish in
these times of rapid mobilization.... We are in these times exposed
to war at a day's notice, and to invasion at very short notice, if
our fleet can be divided or drawn away and beaten in detail."

"We are not without men who could reduce our non-system to system.
Sir F. Roberts, who has partly done this in India so far as the
white army goes, and has attempted, in spite of resistance at home,
to reform the native force--Sir F. Roberts could do it. Lord
Wolseley, whose organization of each of his expeditions has been
careful, energetic, and in every way remarkable, and who in his
_Soldier's Pocket-Book_ has produced the best of all handbooks to
the elements of the art of war--Lord Wolseley could do it. But the
existing system does not do it."

In examining the Continental system, Dilke enumerated what he thought
the principal points. They were, first of all, personal service by all
men, which produced an enormous trained reserve; then complete
localization both of troops and stores; fully worked out plans of
mobilization and arrangements for obtaining horses instantly on the
outbreak of war; and last, but not least, "the organization of a General
Staff which shall act as the brain and nervous system of the army, and
shall draw to it and pass through its training as large a number of
officers as possible, so that experienced staff officers shall be
numerous in the event of war."

In spite of his appreciation of the Continental system, Dilke did not
advocate universal compulsory service:

"Many of my correspondents cannot understand why I do not advocate
for the British army that same general service which now prevails
almost universally on the Continent, and brings with it so many good
fruits both for the nation and the army. I have, as I have shown, no
personal objection to it, but I have pointed out the existence of a
fatal obstacle in certain forms of English and Scotch religious and
certain forms of English commercial thought. It would be unpractical
to consider at length a measure which stands no present chance of
adoption. The time may come when we shall be drawn into a struggle
for life or death, and it seems to me that it will very probably
come within the next ten years, and maybe bring with it the
necessity for that general service which would now be impossible of
attainment. For our present ideas of the imperial position general
service is not necessary, and, moreover, until some capacity is
shown for organizing the troops which we already possess, I do not
see the slightest use in obtaining a large number of fresh men. But,
in view of the reign of force which now exists in Europe, and of
slowly but surely advancing danger in the East, it is impossible to
contemplate an ideal defence of the Empire without supposing that
the inhabitants of Great Britain and all her colonies may arrive at
a condition in which every strong man shall recognize that he owes
to the State some kind of defensive military service. I have tried
to make it plain that such service need not be in the regular army;
still less need any man with us be taken against his will to fight
outside the limits of his own country. But there can be no ideal
defence in which the bulk of the population is not trained, however
slightly, in the handling of military weapons, and the individual
man trained in spirit to believe that the hearths and homes where
his sisters or his wife live free from danger owe their immunity
from attack, not merely to a half-despised 'mercenary army,' but to
the strength and the skill of his own right arm."

"My first condition for an ideal British organization would be
freedom of the fleet from the calls of local defence. The maritime
fortresses and coaling-stations should all be capable of defending
themselves." This meant, of course, guns and garrisons. "My second
ideal principle would be to look to local help for all garrisons
where that system is possible, we retaining always a large staff of
specially well-trained officers for the purpose of organizing and
commanding local levies in war."

Dilke thought it needful for England to train as many officers as
possible, especially as she had an ample supply of men capable, if
trained, of being good officers.

"Is it possible to conceive a more absurd situation than that of the
wealthiest country in the world, with a vast reserve of high-blooded
youth lying idle, and enormous masses of warlike people, Sikhs,
Goorkhas, Mahrattas, Zulus, Arabs, Malays, and what not, under our
hands 'spoiling for a fight,' while this nation is unprepared to
defend its own possessions and its very existence in circumstances
which all know to be more than likely to occur? This nation, our
nation, might absolutely keep the peace of the world, yet shivers at
every breeze of Continental politics."

Dilke's scheme was for a professional army for India and for a citizen
army at home, in which the bulk of the infantry would be volunteers,
while the special arms and the infantry of two army corps, destined to
be an expeditionary force, would be short-service soldiers. It was in
its broad outlines a forecast of the actual development that has taken
place. In particular he proposed, what was carried out by Lord Haldane's
Act, that "the militia should become liable to general service in war,
and should be organized and equipped accordingly. The volunteers should
be liable to be called out for home defence whenever the two army corps
were sent out of the kingdom."

"My first object," he said in conclusion, "has been to point out how
seriously our national military strength falls behind our
requirements, and how unready we always are, in spite of our huge
expenditure. My second object was to show that what we want most is,
not a great and expensive increase of the regular army, but an
endeavour to make the best possible use of what we have already, by
proper organization and by utilizing to the utmost the voluntary
principle, which best suits our national temper and that of the
colonies.... We stand in presence of new forces the power of which
is almost incalculable, and, while I admit that there are in the
army a great number of able men, perhaps more than there ever were,
capable both of creating new systems and of leading us to victory, I
am inclined to think that their characters have been formed in spite
of an obsolete and decaying system, and that they are restrained by
the incapacity of others and the carelessness of the country from
exercising the influence which their talents and energy ought to
command. If the question were one of commerce, liberty, or progress
in civil affairs, the nation would be interested, and would bring
the resources of its accumulated knowledge to bear on the subject.
But being, as it is, a question without the right settlement of
which neither commerce nor liberty is safe, the public is so little
in earnest about it that politicians are allowed to play with it,
and the serious needs of self-defence are sacrificed to the poor aim
of keeping constituencies in good-humour. Nothing can or will be
done by Governments of any party till the nation can be roused to
some expression of public opinion; and that opinion has to be formed
before it can be expressed. In the reign of force which now prevails
throughout Europe, carelessness as to our power of defence is
culpable beyond possibility of exaggeration, for we may have to
defend not only our individual interests as a nation, but all that
enormous influence for the good of mankind which is at present
exercised in the remotest parts of the earth by an enormous Empire
bent on preventing war and on spreading the blessings of peace."

Coming when it did, _The British Army_ made an impression on the
educated public. It followed soon after the report of Sir James
Stephen's Commission, which had exposed the chaotic condition of the
administration of the army. Dilke revealed a grasp of every branch of
the subject. His criticisms reflected the judgment of officers familiar
with the branch of service discussed. His proposals were modest and
intelligible, and in every case represented some body of competent
military opinion. He told the public much that none of his readers fully
appreciated at the time. The German army had been largely increased in
the spring of 1887, and in the beginning of 1888 a Bill passed the
Reichstag which increased by a further 700,000 men the numbers available
in case of war. Dilke explained in one of his chapters that, "according
to the calculations of the French Staff, the total number of armed men
upon which Germany would be able to draw for all purposes would exceed
7,000,000." [Footnote: The British Army, p. 161.] This and other
forecasts may startle those readers whose curiosity tempts them to read
the volume again in 1917. But the work produced no practical result
except to put Dilke into the front rank of army reformers. The
Government took no action to remedy the military weakness which everyone
recognized. The report of the Stephen Commission remained a dead letter.
In June, 1888, a new Royal Commission was issued, in which the Marquis
of Hartington, associated with a number of colleagues of Cabinet rank
and with a General and an Admiral, was instructed to inquire into the
administration of the naval and military departments. The attempt at
reform was postponed until these Commissioners should have made their




Sir Charles Dilke's visit to India in 1888-1889 convinced him that he
had been right in believing the Indian army to be better prepared for
war than the portion of the army which was kept at home. A great
difficulty he now saw was that there were two rival plans of campaign,
the one cherished in India, the other by officers at home. "The greater
number of Indian officers expect to march with a large force into
Afghanistan to meet the Russians, and believe that reinforcements will
be sent from England to swell their armies and to make up for losses in
the field. On the other hand, the dominant school in England expect to
send an expedition from England, in combination with Turkey or some
other allied Power, to attack Russia in other quarters." Dilke was led
accordingly to the general conclusion that the one thing needful was
"that we should try to remove the consideration of these subjects from
the home or the Indian or the Canadian point of view, and should take a
general view of the possibilities of Imperial defence."

The attempt to take this imperial view was made in _Problems of Greater
Britain_, which Dilke wrote during the remainder of the year 1889. In
this work he discussed the defence of the North-West Frontier of India
as a prelude to the examination of the defence of the British Empire.
His reason for this separate treatment was that "only on this one of all
the frontiers of the Empire the British dominion is virtually
conterminous with the continental possessions of a great military
Power." He showed that the serious import of this condition was
understood by all who knew India well and by both the political parties
in England. He dissented from the view that security could be obtained
by an agreement with Russia, because it was not easy to see "how Russia
could put it out of her own power at any moment to threaten us on the
North-West Frontier." The suggestion that Russia should be allowed to
occupy the northern portion of Afghanistan he rejected, first because it
would have been a flagrant breach of faith with the Amir, and secondly
because it would give to Russia territory which she could quickly
transform into a base of operations against India.

He thought that Russia could not invade India with a good chance of
success if she started from her present frontier, but that if she were
allowed to occupy the northern portion of Afghanistan the Indian
Government would be put to ruinous expense for the defensive
preparations which would then be required. [Footnote: 'Lord Dufferin
wrote to me from the Embassy at Rome to express his satisfaction with
the Indian portion of my book, and especially those passages in which I
demonstrated the exceeding folly of which we should be guilty if ever we
consented to a partition of Afghanistan with Russia.'] He noted that the
policy of advance upon our left, which he had recommended in 1868, had
been adopted with success, chiefly by the efficacy of the Sandeman
system of recognizing and supporting the tribal chiefs and requiring
them to maintain order, and also by the occupation and fortification of
the position of Quetta and by the opening of roads from Quetta through
the Gomul and other passes to the Indus at Dera Ismail Khan and Dera
Ghazi Khan. This would enable an Indian army to attack the right flank
of any Russian force attempting to advance along the Khyber line, which
would be resisted in the Khyber hills and at Attock, and be stopped at
the fortress of Rawal Pindi. Generally speaking, he held that Indian
"defence must be by the offensive with the field army, and the less we
have to do with fortifications, the better." He urged the extension
northwards of the Sandeman system to all the independent tribes between
the Indian and the Afghan borders. If the separate armies for the
Presidencies were to be united under a single Commander-in-Chief, as the
Indian Government had long desired, and if the principle of enlisting in
the native army only men of fighting races were fully adopted, and the
native Princes induced to place effective contingents at the disposal of
the Government, he thought that India with reinforcements from home
would be well able to resist a Russian attack starting from the frontier
that Russia then possessed.

But if Russia should once be established at Herat, with railway
communications to that point, there would be hardly any limit to the
force with which it would become necessary to resist her. He therefore
urged that the Russian Government should be given to understand that any
advance of her forces into Afghanistan would be regarded by England as a
hostile act. At the same time he admitted that it was difficult to see
how Russia was in that event to be fought. He still thought that she
would be vulnerable at Vladivostock--at any rate until her railway to
the Pacific should be completed [Footnote: He considered that, with a
view to any future struggle with Russia, the abandonment of Port
Hamilton in 1886 by Lord Salisbury had been unfortunate. See, as to Port
Hamilton, _Life of Granville_, ii. 440; _Europe and the Far East_, by
Sir Robert Douglas, pp. 190, 248]--but he was aware that this view was
shared neither by the Indian nor the British officers likely to be

In his chapter on Indian Defence Dilke had exhausted the subject from
the Indian point of view. He was fully acquainted with the ideas of all
those who had been seriously concerned with the problem, of which he had
discussed every aspect with them, and his exposition was complete. When
in his last chapter he came to "examine the conditions of the defence of
the Empire as a whole, and to try to find some general principle for our
guidance," he was to a great extent breaking new ground. The subject had
been treated in 1888 by Colonel Maurice, afterwards General Sir
Frederick Maurice, in his essay on the Balance of Military Power in
Europe, but Maurice based his scheme on the assumption of a Continental
alliance which Dilke thought impracticable. It had also been treated
with great insight as early as 1880 by Sir John Colomb in his _Defence
of Great and Greater Britain_. His brother Admiral Philip Colomb had
more recently expounded the view that the right plan was to make the
enemy's coasts our frontier, and to blockade the whole of his ports, so
that it would be impossible for his fleets to issue forth. This seemed
to Dilke to imply a superiority of naval force which England did not
possess, and was not then intending to create. But Sir John Colomb in
1880 had admitted the absolute necessity of being prepared to render
invasion impossible by purely military forces. "It was necessary," he
had said, "that invasion be efficiently guarded against, so that, should
our home fleet be temporarily disabled, we may, under cover of our army,
prepare and strengthen it to regain lost ground and renew the struggle
for that which is essential to our life as a nation and our existence as
an Empire."

Sir Charles Dilke thought this sound sense, and that it was rash, in
view of the inadequate strength of the actual navy and of the
uncertainty as to the effect of new inventions on naval warfare, to
count upon beginning a future war with a repetition of Trafalgar. He
admitted that the navy, if concentrated in home waters, would be fully
able to defend the United Kingdom, but that the fleets if so
concentrated must abandon the remainder of the Empire, and that this
would involve the destruction of our commerce and would be as severe a
blow to the Empire as the invasion of England. He inferred that the navy
must be the chief agent in defence, but backed by fortification and by
land forces. There ought to be squadrons in distant seas strong enough
to hold their own, without reinforcements, against probable enemies on
the same stations. The coaling ports must be suitably fortified and have
all the troops necessary for their garrisons on the spot in time of
peace. [Footnote: Autumn of 1889: 'Among those with whom I corresponded
about my book was Lord Charles Beresford, who gave me a great deal of
information about coaling-stations for my chapter on Imperial Defence,
in which I also had Charles Brackenbury's help to a considerable
extent.'] He carefully considered the question of food-supply at home
and the possibility of a commercial blockade of the United Kingdom. He
did not think that such a blockade could be established or maintained.
"Our manufactures would be seriously assailed, our food-supply would
become precarious, but we should not be brought to the point of
surrender by absolute starvation, and the possibility of invasion is not
excluded, as some of the naval school pretend, by the fact that it would
be unnecessary."

"On the other hand, a defeat or a temporary absence of the fleet
might lead to bombardments, attacks upon arsenals, and even to
invasion, if our mobile land forces, our fortifications and their
garrisons, were not such as to render attacks of any kind too
dangerous to be worth attempting. In the absence of the fleet a
landing could not be prevented. But the troops landed ought to be
attacked. For this purpose we do not need an immense number of
ill-trained, badly-equipped, and unorganized troops, but an army
completely ready to take the field and fight in the open, supplied
with a well-trained field artillery."

But the mere protection of Great and Greater Britain was not enough. "It
is idle to suppose that war could be brought to a termination unless we
are prepared in some way to obtain advantages over the enemy such as to
cause him to weary of the struggle. The _riposte_ is as necessary in
warfare as in fencing, and defence must include the possibility of
counter-attack." "In view of almost any conceivable hostilities, we
ought to be prepared to supply arms and officers to native levies which
would support our Empire in various portions of the globe." But we had
too few officers for our own troops at home, in India, and in the
auxiliary forces. The stocks of arms ought to be larger than they were,
and there ought to be centres of production for them in various parts of
the Empire. "The moneys that the British Empire spends upon defence are
immensely great, and what is wanted is that those moneys should be spent
as is decided by the best advisers who can be obtained." "The main thing
needed for a joint organization of the whole of the defensive forces of
the Empire is the creation of a body of men whose duty it would be to
consider the questions raised, and to work out the answers." For this
purpose he thought the one thing needful was a General Staff, an
institution of which he gave a brief account, based on Mr. Spenser
Wilkinson's essay _The Brain of an Army_, of which the author had sent
him the proofs. "A General Staff," Dilke wrote, "would neither inspect
troops nor regulate the promotion of the army, but it would decide the
principles which would arrange the distribution of the Imperial
forces.... The very existence of a General Staff would constitute a form
of Imperial military federation."


In December, 1890, Dilke read before the Statistical Society a paper on
the Defence Expenditure of the Chief Military and Naval Powers. He had
taken great pains to ascertain what each Power spent on its army and
navy, and what return it obtained for its money. The net result was
that, while France and Germany for an expenditure of about 28 millions
sterling could each of them put into the field a mobile force of two
million men, the British Empire, at a cost of 35-1/2 millions, had "a
nominal force of 850,000 of various degrees of training wholly
unorganized, and supplied only with the professional artillery needed
for a force of about 150,000 men." The British navy was more formidable
than the French, and "the German navy does not as yet exist. I say 'as
yet,' for the Germans mean business with their navy, and have begun, in
a businesslike manner, at the top, putting at the head of it their best
administrators." The French were spending altogether on defence a total
of 36 to 36-1/2 millions, the Germans 38, and the British Empire 57
millions. The moral was that, "whatever the peace expenditure, war
cannot be commenced with a fair chance of winning by a nation which
waits until war to make her organization perfect. Germany before 1870
prepared in time of peace her corps, her armies, and provided them all
with officers for the various commands, who knew what their duties would
be in war. All countries spending much on their armies now do the same,
except the United Kingdom, which stands alone in having still
practically little but a regimental system in existence. But although we
are old-fashioned, to the point of being utterly unprepared (except in
India) for the stress of war, we nevertheless spend sums so vast as to
stagger and amaze even the French and German critics, who ought to be
pretty well used, one would think, to large sums for military
expenditure." [Footnote: Sir Charles notes in 1893: 'Sir William
Harcourt on the British Army: "One knows a man who has ten thousand a
year, sixteen horses, and ten carriages, and yet if one guest comes he
has difficulty to find a dogcart to meet him, and if two come a fly has
to be hired. The British nation also spends its money freely, and has
equal difficulty in meeting the slightest emergency."']

Early in 1891 Dilke proposed to Spenser Wilkinson that they should join
in writing a new popular book on Imperial Defence. During that year the
two men kept up a constant correspondence, and Wilkinson was frequently
Dilke's guest in London, at Dockett and Pyrford, and in the Forest of
Dean. At Whitsuntide Dilke stayed at Aldershot (where Wilkinson was in
camp with his old volunteer battalion, the 2nd Manchester), and went
every day to see the regiment at work.

In September, on the eve of Dilke's starting for the French manoeuvres,
Wilkinson sent him the draft of an introduction to the proposed book. It
challenged the widely-held opinion that war is wicked in itself, and
might by political arrangement be rendered unnecessary, and deprecated
the abstention from inquiry into its methods which this opinion
encouraged. It challenged the maxim 'No foreign policy,' which meant
either having no relations with other countries, or, having such
relations, conducting them without system. War should be conceived of as
imposed upon States by an irreconcilable opposition of purposes, and was
always a means to an end. Peace could not be secured by a policy which
adopts it as a supreme end. The confusion between defence as a political
attitude and defence as an operation of war had led to the neglect, by
English public opinion, of all naval and military preparations that
might be available for attack. But the essential elements of defensive
strength, fleets and armies, were mobile and equally available for
offensive operations, and no efficient preparation for defence was
possible that would not also serve for attack. Without a clear and true
conception of the character of war as a conflict of national purposes,
proper conduct of military operations and of defensive preparations was
impossible, and to its absence was due the unorganized condition of the
defence of the Empire. Dilke, in acknowledging the manuscript, wrote:
"I've read it all and like it, but shall shorten it a little," and in
returning the manuscript, with his modifications, wrote: "The
introduction is most excellent--stately and interesting: I can say this,
as it is almost all yours." Wilkinson then sent a chapter entitled "The
Primacy of the Navy."

"An attack on land conducted across the sea is a most hazardous
speculation so long as there exists anywhere a hostile fleet that is
able to fight. In order to make such an attack safe, it is
indispensable that the attacker should secure himself from all
interruption by destroying or driving from the sea any hostile
fleet. The Power which should succeed in doing this would have 'the
command of the sea' as against its particular enemy.... The
territories of the Power having command of the sea are virtually
safe against attack by sea.... The British navy, then, so long as it
maintains the superiority at sea is a sufficient protection against
invasion for every part of the Empire except India and Canada. If,
however, the navy were to suffer decisive defeat, if it were driven
to seek the shelter of its fortified harbours and kept there, or if
it were destroyed--then, not only would every part of the Empire be
open to invasion, but the communication between the several parts
would be cut, and no mutual succour would be possible.

"The defeat of the British fleet or fleets would, of course, be
effected by purely naval operations; but the acquiescence in its
destruction could, perhaps, only be secured by a blow affecting the
British power at its source, and therefore the establishment by an
enemy of his naval superiority would almost certainly be followed by
an invasion of Great Britain. So long, then, as the British navy can
be maintained invincible, the Empire could be adequately defended
against attack of any European Power other than Russia, and for such
a defence, therefore, no more is needed than complete naval
preparation, and such military preparation as is required for the
full efficiency of the navy. Any additional military preparation is,
as against attack of this nature, merely an insurance to cover the
possibility of the failure of the navy. After such failure, it might
save the British Islands, but it could not save the Empire."

Dilke wrote that this doctrine was the opposite of what he had
previously held and preached, and expressed a doubt whether, that being
the case, the book could go on as a joint work. Wilkinson replied that
the first question was whether the doctrine of the chapter was sound,
and that the question of the names on the title-page could wait till the
work was done.

In _Problems of Greater Britain_ Dilke had discussed the view of Sir
John Colomb and of his brother, Admiral Colomb. The Admiral appeared to
rely upon "blockade," which required a navy much stronger than Great
Britain possessed, and might, with modern weapons and the torpedo, be
impracticable of execution, while Sir John Colomb appeared to admit the
necessity of purely military forces to prevent invasion. Dilke, looking
at the extent of the Empire to be defended, had thought that the
concentration of the navy in home waters must involve the abandonment of
the rest of the Empire. This is the view usually held by those who are
thinking of what they have to protect. Wilkinson thought first of the
enemy's forces and how to destroy them. If they can be destroyed, the
enemy is helpless and the territories of the victor are safe, because
the enemy has no force with which to molest them. On the appearance of
_Problems_, Dilke, as the extracts from his Diary at that time show, had
begun to doubt whether this view was not the right one; Wilkinson's
exposition and the discussion which accompanied it completed his
conversion. This was the turning-point of his studies of Imperial

The next chapter was headed "The Command of the Sea." Here the debated
doctrine was applied.

"The purpose of Great Britain to render her territories secure would
be perfectly accomplished by the destruction of the enemy's navy, as
this would render any attempt at the transport of troops
impracticable. The destruction of the enemy's navy would, of course,
also be the best possible protection for England's sea-borne trade
(though, no doubt, for this purpose additional measures would be
required), and for her communications with every part of her Empire.
Thus, in every possible war in which Great Britain could engage, the
prime function of the British navy is to attack, and if possible to
destroy, the organized naval forces of the enemy."

Suppose the enemy sought battle, the question would soon be decided, but
if he wished to avoid it the difficulty would be to find him and to
compel him to accept it. For this purpose the best plan was that adopted
in 1803 by Lord St. Vincent, which consisted in placing at the outset,
in front of every one of the enemy's military ports, a British squadron
superior to that which the enemy had within it. This was incorrectly
termed "blockade," as the object was not to prevent the issue of the
French fleets from their ports, but to prevent their exit unwatched and
to fight them when they should come out. This plan must be supplemented
by a reserve fleet, and by numerous cruisers to hunt such of the enemy's

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