Stead, William Thomas: Europa

No reproach is more frequently brought against me than that of inconsistency. It is the most familiar of the jibes which are flung at me by both friends and foes alike when they differ from me, that they never know what I am going to be at next, and I am everything by turns and nothing long. These reproaches and sarcasms I have borne with the equanimity of one whose withers are unwrung, for I happen to be in the fortunate position of a man whose opinions have been on record from day to day and from month to month for the last twenty-five years. To all such accusations there is only one answer: Litera scripta manet. It is quite true that I have infinitely varied the method by which I have sought to attain the ultimate ideal that at the very beginning of my journalistic career I set myself to realize. I have supported and opposed in turn almost every leading statesman, and I have from time to time thrown whatever influence I had, now on the side of Imperialism, and then on the side of peace, and I have done all this, and hope to go on doing it till the end of my time. But to base the charge of inconsistency on this continual change of tactics is as absurd as it would be to accuse a mariner of not steering for his port because from day to day and from hour to hour he tacks from side to side in order the more expeditiously to reach his distant port.

This question of the United States of Europe has been one of the ideals towards which I have constantly, in fair weather and in foul, directed my course. Nineteen years ago, in the critical election of 1880, it was my lot to draw up an electoral catechism which was more widely used as an electoral weapon by the party which issued triumphant from the polls than any other broad sheet in the campaign. In this catechism I formulated my conception of the English foreign policy in terms which, after the lapse of nineteen years, I do not find necessary to vary by a single syllable:

Question: “What is England’s mission abroad?”

Answer: “To maintain the European Concert -that germ of the United States of Europe- against isolated action; to establish a Roman peace among the dark-skinned races of Asia, Polynesia, and Africa; to unite all branches of the English-speaking race in an Anglo-Saxon Bund, and to spread Liberty, Civilization and Christianity throughout the world.” – “The elector’s Catechism.” General Election of 1880.

My last visit to Russia and the publication of this book are the latest efforts that I have made to realize the ideal which was clearly set out in the above sentence written in 1880. The conception in those days was confined to few, but nowadays the parties led by Lord Rosebery and Lord Salisbury would vie with each other in asserting their readiness to recognize the European Concert as the germ of the United States of Europe, and to develop the concerted action of six Powers in relation to the question of the East into a Federated Union of all the European States. It may perhaps be well worth while to form some idea of this new organic entity which it is the first object of our foreign policy to create. Are we repeating the crime of Frankenstein, or are we fashioning, like Pygmalion, a beautiful creature into which at the appointed time the gods will breathe the breath of life? In other words, what is this Europe whose United States we are seeking to federate?

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