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post, declared that he intended that the in emergencies. If one wishes for conpremiers he would call should carry out firmation of this opinion, it is necessary his policy. In France it is not as in to see him in a tight corner. He knows America: the President has, constitu- how to get out of tight corners better tionally, little power. The executive than anyone. It may sometimes be chief is the Premier, who is respon- thought that he might have avoided sible to Parliament and whom Parlia- getting into tight corners. ment can make or break. Nevertheless, Now M. Briand is a fine manœuvrer: a man like M. Millerand, if he is it is exhilarating to watch him placing surrounded by influential supporters his opponents, when they are most and has really the favor of Parliament, cocksure, in an impossible situation. can become supreme. It is only when His method of speech-making is a lesson
а. he is faced by a Premier who is backed in Parliamentary strategy. It is odd up by Parliament, and whose policy that, in a country so renowned for its is in opposition to that of the Presi- eloquence, the written speech is so dent, that he must submit, on pain of common. Often have I seen an orabeing broken, as was President Mac- tor who has gained great fame take Mahon. M. Poincaré has recently out of his pocket his typewritten reply shown that against M. Clemenceau to a simple expression of thanks for then at the height of the power derived attending a luncheon, and proceed to from Parliament and people — he could read formal or flowery phrases. It is do nothing, even though he was stren- somewhat disconcerting to the Anglouously against the provisions of the Saxon, who is used to impromptu treaty. The president may be indeed speeches — the substance of which is nothing in France, and the Elysée may doubtless well prepared, but of which be a prison. There are those who assert the words are left largely to the inspirathat M. Poincaré, who now enjoys tion of the moment. It is with us remuch backing, would have been earlier garded as a confession of weakness, a called to the premiership had not M. sign of artificiality, to hold in one's Millerand passed him over, just as M. hands the evidence of careful study. Poincaré for a long time passed over
We have at least to pretend to sponM. Clemenceau. However that may be, taneity. The form is thus sacrificed, M. Leygues, who succeeded M. Mille- but the appearance of sincerity is saved. rand as Premier, was little more than But with the French the form counts the nominee of M. Millerand, carrying for much. Out comes the written docuout his instructions. M. Briand present ment, and only its forceful delivery ly succeeded M. Leygues, and although preserves for it its effect of directness. M. Briand is far from being colorless, But M. Briand is not one of those Premier and President have worked French orators who not only rehearse amicably together, and M. Millerand but write their speeches. On the conmay be considered to be still in the as- trary, his efforts are nearly always imcendant, still the supreme authority promptu. This is essentially characterin France, in fact as in name.
istic of the man. He is the improviser par excellence. He is an amazing
virtuoso. In France they say that he III
‘plays the violoncello.' He plays it M. Aristide Briand, more than any without the music before him. He other French politician, has won the plays it precisely as the occasion sugreputation of being shrewd and skillful gests. He would, perhaps, be singularly embarrassed were he called upon to blies. This may be true of parliaments play a set piece. He loves to embroider, like the British, where two, or, at the to compose as he goes along, to await most, three parties sit on their benches the inspiration of the moment and the with their minds made up, ready to call of circumstance. This is true of his obey their party whip. But it is not speeches - but it is also true, in a true of M. Briand in the French Parlialarger sense, of his politics.
ment, where there are many groups and It may indeed be taken as a parable where the possibilities of combination and illustration of the man this are as numerous as the combinations of habit of his to search in his audience pack of cards. He knows, as few men the words, the ideas, which he utters. know, how to shuffle them how to There are times when one might lead this card and then that. In his pardonably suppose M. Briand to be way he is certainly the most masterly tired, indifferent; not to put too fine a parliamentarian who has ever been point upon it — lazy. But this impres- known in France. If proof were necession is altogether wrong. M. Briand is sary, it would be found in the fact that like Mr. Lloyd George inasmuch as he seven times has he been called upon to relies largely on his intuition, his im- govern; and this year, in spite of his mediate judgments, his ever-ready reputation of belonging to the Left, he resources. He comes into the Chamber has performed the extraordinary feat apparently without anything particu- of governing largely with the support of lar to say. He reads an official state- the Right. For that matter, he belongs, ment in a dull voice. He seems to be in the formal sense, neither to the Right bored, and so does the Chamber. There nor to the Left. He has no party. He is an atmosphere of hostility. One won- has, strictly speaking, no following. He ders what will be his fate.
remains, when he is not in office, alone And then, discarding the officialstate and apart. Well does he know that, ment, without notes, without (so far as when the situation becomes unmanageone knows) any preparation, he begins able, when the Parliamentary team is one of his wonderful discourses. At first difficult to drive, his day will again he feels his way cautiously. His voice takes on a new animation. There is an Most of the French politicians – interruption. Somebody in the Cham- M. Poincaré and M. Viviani are notable ber reveals the ground of antagonism. instances — combine their rôle of poliThis is what M. Briand is waiting for. tician with the rôle of journalist, and, He, applies himself to that point; he when they are not responsible for the develops his theme. He vanquishes this government, become the most powerful particular opposition, only, perhaps, to
critics of the government in the press. arouse opposition from the other side Such has been the life of M. Clemenof the house. This gives him a fresh ceau. Sometimes he has been premier, start. He seems to seek to penetrate and at other times he has been a formidthe minds of his opponents in order to able antagonist of the premier, thundemolish their objections. Now he pits dering against him, not from the tribune, the Right against the Left, and now he but from the newspaper that he dirouses the Left to enthusiasm. It is the rected. Now, although M. Briand, like most beautiful balancing of views it is most other French politicians, began possible to conceive.
his career as journalist, he never takes up Speeches, it is sometimes said, never the pen in the intervals of office. He change a yote in parliamentary assem- does hardly any lobbying; he rarely
commits himself in any way. He sits sticks to his policy in spite of apparent silent until his hour shall again strike. and momentary contradictions. He Always is he something of an enigma. has to reconcile many opinions, and he Always does he allow the Left to sup- has to bring the Ship of State safely pose he is their man, and the Right to toward the land that he sees ahead. believe that he is not against them. In There are, of course, different kinds the clash and confusion of rival ambi- of opportunists, and to use the word tions, it is Briand, the man who makes without discrimination as a term of opno useless efforts, the man who knows probrium is altogether wrong. In my how to keep a still tongue although he opinion, for example, Mr. Lloyd George, possesses a winning tongue, who is who is undoubtedly the greatest opporchosen. The speeches that he makes tunist of our century, has, in spite of when he is assailed, and the position all kinds of concessions, all kinds of has become difficult, are the most per- seeming stultifications of his judgment, suasive speeches that may be heard; kept along exactly the same path in but when I read them at length the international affairs that he indicated next day, I generally find that they are to me and to others in March, 1919. full of repetitions and even of contra- When he has seen rocks in the way,
he dictions. That is because he addresses has gone round them. It is so with M. himself, now to this side, then to that Briand, whose points of resemblance side. To know the true Briand, it is not with him could be multiplied. Perhaps sufficient to hear or to read his speeches. it is only the fool who steers straight One has to remember whom he is ad- ahead. One of the chief grievances of a dressing, and what is his immediate certain section of French politicians is purpose. One has to be able to distin- that M. Briand, in calling up Class 19 guish between what is meant for one for the occupation of the Ruhr, did so party, what for another party; what is to discredit that policy and to make its meant for France and what is meant for repetition impossible. As to this I will Germany; what is meant for England express no opinion; but it will readily and what is meant for other countries. be conceived that a politician may ap
I trust that this portrait does not pear to do the opposite of that which suggest a mere opportunist, in the he intends to do. M. Briand is not worst sense of the term. M. Briand a native of Brittany for nothing. It is certainly is an opportunist, in that he from Brittany that France recruits makes use of the varying views of his most of her sailors. M. Briand is an auditors, in that he stresses now one
expert sailor. point and then another point. It was The truth is that M. Briand is esM. Briand who spoke of the occupa- sentially a man of liberal views. I do tion of the Ruhr, and it was M. Briand not purpose either to defend or to atwho condemned such a policy as inept. tack him: I wish merely wish to state The occasion has always to be consid- the facts as I see them; and it is in this ered. But he is an opportunist only as spirit that I record my impression, a sailor is an opportunist. When the which is corroborated by conversations wind blows from the west, he must of a more or less private character that spread his sails accordingly; but when have come to me from friends conthe wind veers to the north, he must versations in which he has expressed trim his sails anew. But the sailor himself with surprising moderation. He knows where he is going and keeps his is far from being the implacable taskcourse. M. Briand has a policy, and he master of Germany that he has been represented to be on account of certain terrible preoccupation of her security. episodes. No one knows better than Doubtless he, like all other French does M. Briand the true need of France statesmen, would prefer that America
- the need of a policy that will recon- and England, as promised at the Peace cile old enemies and establish some Conference, should come into a triparmeasure of economic coöperation in tite military pact. But he is not, as Europe. No one realizes more the need I understand,
I understand, an advocate of what for a reduction of armaments, which is amounts to perpetual occupation, or of possible only if better relations exist in detachment of the Rhineland from the Europe.
Reich, as are M. Poincaré, M. Tardieu, France at this moment has an army and M. Maurice Barrès. The most sig. that is big enough to conquer the Con- nificant thing that was done under his tinent. France is not, strictly speaking, ministry was the signing of the Louobliged to take heed of the opinion of cheur-Rathenau accord, which envisanyone. She can adopt any coercive ages the collaboration of France and methods she pleases, and there is no Germany, which (provided Germany recountry that can effectively say her mains a non-militaristic republic) presnay. But that would be a fatal course. ages some sort of friendship between Not only would it be folly to fly in the the two countries that, in spite of their face of the world's opinion, but France hereditary hatreds, intensified since the would certainly not obtain any satisfac- Armistice, have to live side by side. tion in the shape of additional repara- They can be blood-foes with the certions. The army, whether it is put at tainty of another war, or they can com800,000 men or at 700,000, is a tremen- pose their age-long differences. There dous burden for a country in economic is no middle course. difficulties, and all sensible men must desire its reduction. It is a burden on
IV the finances of the country, but it is also a burden on the individual Frenchman, This brings me to M. Louis Loucheur who has to spend what should be the - easily, in my opinion, the most remost vital preparatory years of his life markable figure in French political life. in idleness and the demoralizing milieu I said just now that there were no new of the barracks. There are those who men. I must modify that statement. urge, with justice, that, in the economic M. Loucheur is a new man. He has struggle, Germany will enjoy a great new methods. He is not a politician, aladvantage over France by reason of the though he is in politics. He is the busifact that she is compelled to keep her ness man. In France the politicians army at a negligible number, while have become what might, not disreFrance has to support a huge body of spectfully, be called an 'old gang.' M. non-producers. How could any sane Loucheur was not even a deputy when person wish to maintain the army at he became minister. He brings a fresh anything like its present level?
mind to the public problems. He has no But, on the other hand, so long as prejudices, no traditions, no long trainnational safety is secured, no matter ing along political lines. He is accuswhat sacrifice must be made, no matter tomed to see things as they are. He what handicap must be borne, M. Bri- does not idealize them; he is not a sentiand, I believe, is all in favor of making mentalist, dealing in abstractions, hypsuch amicable arrangements with Ger- notized by catch-phrases, as are polimany as will enable France to forget this ticians generally. For me he represents an immense force. He towers over all abuses. Nor do I consider that the good the rest.
business man will necessarily make a It would be foolish to prophecy, and good minister. Probably the chances are therefore I shall not assert dogmatically that he will not. But exceptional times that M. Loucheur will, for the next ten call for exceptional men, and M. Louif not twentyyears, be the real
cheur is unquestionably an exceptional power behind French politics. All I will man. Afterward, of course, his situaventure to say is that, at the present tion was regularized by his election. moment, he is the man who matters He has remained minister through sevmost, and that he should be looked eral administrations, and in one capacupon, not in his ministerial capacity, ity or another his services will continue but as a man. That is to say, that he to be enlisted. will probably continue to occupy a
It was M. Loucheur who initiated the nominally subordinate post. It is ex- policy of direct negotiations with Gertremely unlikely, in my judgment, that many, and who oriented France toward he will form a cabinet and put himself the idea of reparations in kind. Had it at the head of French politics. He is been possible to impose upon Germany, far more likely to remain in the back- three years ago, the essential task of ground. But it would be folly to regard repairing the ruined regions of France, him as a supernumerary. He has brains; there is little doubt that by this time he has ability; he has energy; he is used France would have been largely restorto dealing in realities, and he thinks ed; and the speedy restoration would in terms of realities. I do not know have been worth far more than the whether it has been remarked how un- nebulous milliards. The two countries real politics tend to become, and in would already have settled down on what an imaginary world politicians terms of decent neighborliness. Unwalk. Into this unreal world came M. happily, everybody was mesmerized by Loucheur; but he was not corrupted by the glittering promise of immense sums his environment. He had the advan- hitherto unheard of sums that could tage of not serving an apprenticeship to be expressed only in astronomical figpolitics. He passed through none of the ures. The consequences might have intermediary stages. During the war he been foreseen but they were not, excontrolled numerous companies, and is cept by the economists. The consereputed to be extremely rich, to have quences are the collapse of Germany made a vast fortune.
and the collapse of the treaty. EveryIt was M. Clemenceau who appealed body now realizes that, unless something to him to lend a hand. It was felt that is done in time, Germany is doomed to
, the practical man was the kind of man bankruptcy. Now, Germany is neceswho was needed to help in the winning sary to Europe, just as Carthage was of the war and the elaboration of the necessary to ancient Rome. The foolish peace. Only rarely does a non-politi- destruction of Carthage by the Romans cian, who has not been elected by the deprived them of a base for the Eastern people, find himself called to take up Mediterranean sea-routes. It is easy to a ministerial office; but in the case of look back and make these criticisms. M. Loucheur the experiment was amply What is of more importance is to look justified. I am not blind to the possible forward, and to appreciate the fact that, disadvantages of thus bringing rich if Germany did not exist, it would be business men into the government. The necessary to invent her. Nothing more door is obviously opened to certain stupid than that policy which would