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i THE PEACE CRUSADE. I - ï

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THE PEACE CRUSADE. I ï THE CZAR'S CONFERENCE. r* REPRESENTATIVES OF THE |k, POWERS. iw w- ► BY W. T. STEAD. The Peace Crusade is an almost universally accepted fact. No longer does it arouse any con- siderable opposition. Its operations have become a part—a small part, it is true, but nevertheless a regular part-of the ordinary bill of fare of the newspapers. From the first the Crusade excited scarcely the amount of opposition that we should have liked. Had there been any considerable party in the State determinedly against peace, matters would have proved more lively for the organisers of the Crusade. We have had to deal with a practically unanimous country. Though that may be easy and agreeable it is not exciting, while it has prevented the operations of the Crusade attracting the amount of attention they would had there been another policy in the field. I have said elsewhere, and I repeat here, that England has seen nothing like the Crusade of Peace. One must go twenty years back to attempt to find a parallel. The only movement which com- pares with the Peace Crusade is that which arose out of the Bulgarian atrocities. I speak of what I know when I say that the Bulgarian agitation was small in its volume to that which has been aroused during the last three months. On that occasion, however, we were fighting against the policy of One of the great parties in the State. We had at our command the incomparable eloquence and the splendid fervour of Mr. Gladstone. The meetings attracted more notice all over the country. They were not, with a few exceptions, as large and as unanimous as those which have been held in con- nection with this Crusade. Perhaps the amount of work actually accom- plished is best appreciated by a glance at the list of meetings held and to be held which is issued weekly from the head offices of the Crusade of Peace. The growth of that list has been astonishing. Beginning as a mere entry in the ordinary minutes, perhaps eight or nine lines at the most, it has developed week by week until it now occupies four sheets of printed foolscap. Were it to be printed two meetings to a line in this Column, it would occupy nearly half the space at my disposal. More than two hundred meetings are Mt out. The first dozen were held before the Crusade came into existence. The remainder have been the direct outcome of the idea initiated at St. James's Hall. These, be it remembered, are, with some ten exceptions, town's meetings called by the Mayor. They cover practically the whole of England and Scotland, and penetrate into Ireland, where only lack of time has prevented a fuller demonstration of public opinion. Everything is now in readiness for the convention at St. Martin's Town Hall. The response from the delegates appointed in all parts of the country has been remarkable. There were those who predicted that while the various meetings might appoint public men of weight and character to represent them these would not respond when the time came to perform their task. Ti at belief has been com- Elately falsified. A circular sent to all the delegates as brought such a number of acceptances for the Conference that the capacity of the hall will be strained. It was decided to issue tickets for the friends of delegates to the gallery of the hall, but the number of these has had to be strictly limited, and already the whole of them has been taken up. Lady Frederick Cavendish will be among the Speakers at the Conference. events are uguung on the side of peace. The E3,000,000 increase in the naval budget has brought the whole country to see what the present system of competition in armaments means. We are spending more than E4,000,000 sterling on our navy and army during the coming more year than we did in the year which is just closing. Nor has the limit been reached. Next year there will be another increase, perhaps larger than that for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now made provision. The process of adding millions to the war budget must go on automatically. We have an enormous Empire to defend, and so long as our neighbours go on increasing their forces we must do the same. The race is one in which we cannot afford to be left in the background. Only by such a general halt as is proposed by the Czar will come relief from that shilling income-tax which looms in the not very distant future. France, too, which only a week ago seemed almost hopeless for the purposes of the Peace Crusade, has dramatically been brought face to face with the fact that it has more to gain than any other nation from an arrest of armaments. In the Chamber of Deputies M. de Freycinet, the Minister for War, has called attention to a fact which has been realised by every other nation than the French for some time past. The French Army has reached its limit of expansion. By putting the standard lower than in any army in Europe, by keeping its conscripts for three years, and by counting every available man, France is able to keep an arti-.y on a peace footing of 561,000. It cannot get more, and with a stationary male popu- lation it has no hope of more. The navy is at a similar standstill. The armaments of Germany and Russia are now kept on the basis of a possible war with France. An equilibrium exists. It has only to be maintained. In any case France can no longer keep up the race. That is a good omen for the Peace Conference at The Hague. As the time for the International Congress approaches, the national agitations are giving way in public interest to the gathering of diplomatists which will assemble it The Hague on May 18th. At the present moment the representatives of Russia in every Court in Europe are negotiating as to the preliminary conditions for the Peace Confer- ence. The work is being delicately done, for it is necessary that every nation with a standing army in Europe should be represented at The Hague if the Conference is to have practical results. In 8t, Petersburg itself the greatest Russian jurists are making an exhaustive examination of the treaties which bear upon the relations of the various Continental Powers, and which must necessarily be a factor in any settlement which may be come to. The Conference will not, of course, propose any solution of outstanding questions. That is quite outside its scope. The preliminary examination of treaties, however, will enable the various representatives to enter upon their work well equipped with all the information necessary for a settlement of the momentous questions which it will consider. Admirable as was the selection of Baron de Staal to preside over the Conference, the results of the choice are even more striking. Russia is sending its first statesman, and the other nations are, so far as they are able, following the example. France will in all probability be represented by M. Hanotaux and Baron de Courcel; Germany will send Baron Marschall or Prince Herbert Bismarck Italy will appoint Signor Ressmann and the Marquis Visconti Venosta; while Spain will delegate Count de Rascon, a former Ambassador at the Court of St. James's. As yet our own diplomatists have not been appointed. The rumour that Sir Julian Pauncefote will be one is rather a happy guess than an authoritative announcement, but the approval with which the report has been received is evidence sufficient that there are few 8tatesmen whom this country trusts more in a matter of such grave importance. Whoever the British representatives may be, they will bear into the Conference the message given by Mr. Goschen to the House of Commons, that the British Government is prepared to reconsider and to reduce its war budget if the Continental Powers will do likewise. Such an instruction to the dele- gates of the United Kingdom is a happy omen for the success of the Conference. It stands as the best answer to those who have contended that the Peace Crusade was unnecessary in this country. With- out such an overwhelming expression of public opinion as has been seen since the meeting at St. James's Hall, and which will reach its culmina- tion in the National Convention, the Government would not have been encouraged, even while pre- senting its unprecedented naval estimates, to declare that they are subject to reduction in the event of a fumessful issue of the Conference. _4_==:=: -===-

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